Harem Scarem – Mood Swings II


Review by Brian McGowan

Frontiers Records

Too bad Harem Scarem weren’t 10 years ahead of their time. If Mood Swings, the band’s second album, had originally been released in 1983 instead of 1993 we would be telling a different story. For anyone back then (in 1993) who was manfully trying, Canute like, to resist the incoming tide of grunge rock, this album was a beacon of light, a port in the storm.

Apparently the band never did own the original recordings, released on Warner Canada, so¬† have rerecorded the album to gain ownership. And now, 20 years later, it’s much like welcoming an old friend. One who’s had a hardly perceptible face lift – a few nips and tucks here and there – but still displaying all the warmth, looks and sounds which once seemed part of our lives. So, if you’re going to buy one, buy II.

There’s little of value to be added to the plethora of reviews over the years, the plaudits, the awards, the acclaim, and even if it all flew under the radar of public perception this was an album that truly defined the essence of melodic hard rock. (For what it’s worth, on a personal level, I remember buying it from Mike’s (ex Shades) one man mail order business, on his recommendation. It was either that or Biloxi’s Let The Games Begin. So I bought them both and still consider them to be among the top ten “buys of my life”.)

What can be said about Mood Swings II is that there are 3 bonus tracks on this new edition. All are songs of greater complexity and imagination – the sound of a band that has evolved but vividly remembers how it all began. ‘World Gone To Pieces’ has much more of a contemporary feel, tougher, more aggressive. Lesperance’s axework bites and stings to the beat of a thunderous percussive thump.

‘Anarchy’ is a monster, an operatic melodic rock song in three movements, delivered elegantly and emphatically by the band, moving gracefully but forcefully though progressive rock, melodic hard rock and power pop, all in the space of four and a half minutes. And in due course, choruses and hooks as undeniable as those on the preceding 11 tracks emerge from the densely textured sonics like behemoths rising from the ocean. ‘Brighter Day’ could have fallen off the back of the original Mood Swings’ lorry. Now picked up, dusted down and given the exposure it undoubtedly deserves.

They say you can never go back. Mood Swings II might just disprove that theory.

Harem Scarem - Mood Swings II10 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Saviors Never Cry
  2. No Justice
  3. Stranger Than Love
  4. Change Comes Around
  5. Jealousy
  6. Sentimental Blvd.
  7. Mandy
  8. Empty Promises
  9. If There Was A Time
  10. Just Like I Planned
  11. Had Enough
  12. World Gone To Pieces
  13. Anarchy
  14. Brighter Day



  1. Nice coincidence Harry. I interviewed harry Hess for the old Hard RoxX mag several years ago. I was trying to make him into some kind of melodic rock hero. He was equally determined to be just an ordinary, family man kinda guy. He won! Not the most ‘rock’n’roll’ interview I’ve ever done, but I tip my hat to him.
    It’ll be good to hear your impressions of the band at firefest.

  2. Nice one, Brian. I penned a feature on Mr Hess for Powerplay a year or two ago and, during our chat, I found him to be a genuinely nice guy. Not at all what you’d expect from the mainman of an archetypal poodle-rock band. He hadn’t even heard of Fire Fest then and – waddya know? – Harem Scarem are appearing there this year.Looking forward very much to seeing what all the fuss was about.

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