He’s been called a “one-man Tarantino flick” by the Village Voice. Ed Hamell, better known as the ant-folk hero Hamell On Trial, has released the ninth album in his 25-year career, and it may be his best. Hamell is uncompromising; fearless; hilarious; offensive; hysterical, and at times poignant. This album is vintage Hamell: full of acerbic wit, rebelliousness, biting social commentary, in-your-face rapid-fire guitar strumming and lyrical rants. Channeling the early Bob Dylan’s tongue-in-cheek humor and love of stream-of-consciousness lyrics, Hamell On Trial always stands bravely alone, with no disciples and no imitators. His real mentors are Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks.
Hamell is an acute observer, a storyteller who frequents the environs trodden by the likes of Hunter Thompson and William Burroughs. His stories/songs are all born of an intense personal pain, made bearable by his wit, talent with words and use of an endless parade of broke down characters. The opening track, “Artist in America” is a brilliant song composed mainly of classic rock and roll titles. Mr. Hamell knows well what is to be an artist in America, where “their dreams crash and burn”. And who but Hamell would write a love song for amputee fetishists (“Mom’s Hot”)? His best moments are in “Gods at War:” “Your god seems like an angry man, he’s ruling his world with an iron hand/ Your god needs a lot of praise…my god seems like a real cool girl, she’s got a sense of humor…my god’s got a lot of class / Your god’s a pain in the ass.”
Yes, Hamell’s still on trial. Thank God for that!
– Robert Myers