Album: Hamell On Trial

Tough Love, Righteous Babe
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The Independent Culture

Ed Hamell's first album for Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe label follows in much the same vein as his 2001 broadside Choochtown, with X-rated, Tarantino-esque tales of lowlifes, junkies and killers interspersed with vituperative demolitions of hypocrisy and amorality such as "Halfway", in which he manages to take sideswipes at Rolling Stone magazine and fans of Christian heavy-metal band Creed, en route to savaging a Britney-style popstrel. "I'm a self-righteous prick with a great big mouth," he admits, "but I'm sick to death of mediocrity and lies." Religion figures more heavily than before here, with heaven portrayed as a place of threadbare disillusion in "A Little Concerned, That's All", and God himself dropping in on "Don't Kill" to ask bellicose politicians: "What part of 'Thou Shalt Not' don't you understand?". But, as before, it's the racier criminal tales that furnish the greatest enjoyment, whether the tragicomic misadventure and treachery of "When Destiny Calls" (narrator borrows stolen car from friends, finds stash of coke in trunk, gets chased by mobsters who own car), or the serial killers on the run through "Tough Love", shooting everyone who gets in their way or even rubs them up the wrong way - such as the poor fool who talks through the movie. Particularly sharp are Hamell's commentaries on the computer age: the epistolary piece "Dear Pete", which outlines in a few brief e-mails how Pete was blackmailed back into crime by a Photoshop-ed porno photo; and the internet boyfriend in "First Date" who turns up drunk, drugged and naked on a girl's doorstep - but still ends up marrying her.