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CD REVIEW: HAM - "Bluffing With Integrity"
By Lennon Bone - 10/31/2005 - 12:30 PM EST

Artist: HAM
Album: "Bluffing With Integrity"
CD Review: Rating: 79%

Rating Key: 0 - 19% (It hurt to listen) 20 - 29% (Awful) 30 - 39% (Bad) 40 - 49% (Almost average) 50 - 59% (Average) 60 - 69% (Good, but has problems) 70 - 79% (A good record) 80 - 89% (You must check it out!) 90 - 95% (Best I’ve heard in a long time!) 95 - 100% (Incredible! Nothing like it!)

HAM calls their music “a light grey suicide sunshine smile”. I’m not quite sure I understand what that means, but if anybody would know how to describe their music it would be them. Reason being - it’s not quite like anything I’ve heard in some time. Much like the tail end of a swine it’s got a very distinct flavor, one that intelligently integrates their major influences of the 60's and 70's with what comes naturally to them. The bands info also states that “HAM is high in cholesterol and makes you thirsty”. Well, I haven’t gained any weight from listening to this album, and truth be told I’m not any less hydrated than I was prior to these tunes hitting my ears. If anything - I might feel a little better than before I came across the record. This type of HAM might be a bit more of a “cure-all” than some sort of fatty meat, and if I had to pick a color for the music it would at least be a dark shade of pink as opposed to a light grey...

Their debut LP “Bluffing With Integrity” has plenty of catchy tunes, well written lyrics, and solid musicianship from all angles. It weaves in and out of mellow pop rock songs peppered with electronic and acoustic loops - typically followed by more bare bones three piece tracks that could stand on their own with nothing more than an acoustic guitar from Mr. Ken Rose, and the unique vocals of one Joe Cang. The first two tracks “Kingsize” and “Bigtime” are the perfect example. “Kingsize” starts the record off with a simple guitar riff - the gents allow the loop to bring in the groove tastefully without overpowering what’s to come in the lyrics. “we all fall down / just to get back up again / don’t ask how / it just always goes that way.” It continues the build with Joe’s vocals all the way to the full throttle chorus - “now it feels like there’s nothing wrong / it’s so easy just sing along / it’s so good it’s kingsize.” It become’s quickly familiar all the way down to the naaaa-na-na-naaaa’s for the verbally challenged - such as myself. “Bigtime” is definitely the more stripped down of the two, but only musically. Joe and Ken’s lyrics simultaneously speak optimistically and pessimistically of what could be HAM’s existence at this point in time. “It feels like / we’re ready for the big time / just about to blow some minds / but nobody cares / nobody cares / sittin’ on a gold mine / recognition multiplying / but nobody cares / nobody cares.” I can’t completely disagree with the optimism. HAM has a lot of things going for them including a solid sound, a drummer that can whistle like an angel (Ralf Nicklaus), and a pretty stinkin’ good debut record on their hands. Somebody will care.

While the first half of “Bluffing With Integrity” shows some very strong points, there is a bit of a lull toward the middle of the record with the tracks “Play” and “Out and Down”. However it’s a short enough hiatus, and is not really that noticeable upon the first listen. It picks itself back up with one of their featured tracks “Superman and Jesus”. The tune talks about two of the worlds biggest hero’s kickin’ back together, and is laced with what I read into as being a few of their political views as well, without getting in depth enough to cause any controversy.

The strongest tune on the record is “Going Through The Motions” - a mid tempo beatlesque rocker that hits close to home with me when it speaks of how “their ain’t nothing left to lose / I’m wearing holes with no shoes” “bills / won’t get paid ‘till I reinvent the wheel” and presents a strong head bobbing sing along out loud chorus that makes it feel okay to “go through the motions” sometimes. Topped off with a trombone solo and some strong guitar work, this one undeniably deserves some radio play.

It’s impressive that for a debut independent release HAM was able to turn my head in their direction. Especially since they collectively hail from the US, Germany, and London. That’s a lot of head turning. It’s well worth it to get a taste for what these porkers are putting on the plate for you all to take a heaping helping of. I would recommend giving it a listen - but remember, just because I didn’t gain any weight from this record doesn’t mean that you won’t. I have pretty high metabolism, and we’ve got the facts right in front of us. Consider yourself warned, but don’t deny yourself the entitlement to a certain amount of gluttony.

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