04 June 2010

I bought this on Amazon for less than a pack of cigarettes

Harlem - Hippies (Matador 2010)
(Writer's Note: This album was not purchased on Amazon. I got it at Generation Records, located at 210 Thompson Street New York, NY. I bought it for cheaper than a pack of Maryland smokes, not New York priced ones.)

The Matador Records biography for Harlem begins, "jack the ripper was sitting in his kitchen idly fingering through recipes when the idea of naming a rock and roll band harlem first came to him." It then goes on to say that, jack told the name to his cat who told him not to pursue it but then in later years the cat would share the name and then even later after that the cat's grandson would bestow it upon someone. This may not have happened, but the guys in Harlem seem experienced at life, and looking at the infinite number of possibilities to any scenario then it seems at least mildly plausible that these details could check out.
Presumably, years were spent bouncing around cities, sleeping on floors, and smoking instead of eating. The internets often report that this band is from Austin, but it seems more likely that they are just from America.
Their first record was titled Free Drugs;-), and had a song on it called "Psychedelic Tits". Put it in for kicks, and it works. So does this, the follow-up. Harlem is a three piece band, and two of the members split time between being behind the kit and fronting the show singing the songs and playing guitar. Album opener "Someday Soon" poses a scenario where a bro is on fire and asking for help and the other party refuses, opting instead to "let that shit burn." After thinking about it, this kind of demonstration is way more vicious then hitting someone with a flower.
Having two guys alternating at the reins causes the band's sound to drift between the absurd and the more grounded in the reality of what is actually happening. They're all jams, but some are about ladies and other related endeavors while others are about more random shit. With all seriousness, though, there are times where it's pretty straight-forward and quasi-conventional. For instance, there is the track titled "Number One" with the line "I met the girl of my dreams/She's down in New Orleans". That's something that can actually happen. People can conceivably identify with that. Then again, there's a song about a basketball team called Gay Human Bones who win most of their games at home. Really, something for everybody, and better yet, this is a record that causes repeated listens.
With 16 tracks clocking in at just under 41 minutes, Hippies is a hang out record. Drinking beer out of a can underneath a deck, or on a porch. Chain-smoking at dawn. The morning after a rad night out. These are times to play this album, and if this is how things end up after years of ups and downs and peaks and valleys, then we might be alright after all.

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