Har Mar Superstar - Bye Bye 17

by Amy Putman Rating:8.5 Release Date:2013-04-29

When I was 19, I threw my knickers at Har Mar Superstar. It was in the Leeds Met Uni and I was there with a bunch of hopeless dreamsters and drunksters (of who I was the most hopeless, day-dreamiest, and probably the drunkest) who are still some of my closest friends and the best people I've ever known. I had persuaded them that this gig was one they shouldn't miss; the pinnacle of our debauched bonding and feverish scrabbling for EXPERIENCES.

I promised that, although they weren't currently fans, their time in the boiling sweat-bath of the summer crowd would inspire in them a lifelong love and longing for the moustachioed sleazebag on stage. Unfortunately, I was typical of intoxicated teens in that I got overexcited, rushed to the front and danced my heart out, gazing into the Har Mar's eyes, completely ignorant of the way my friends had been trapped at the back and couldn't get to the bar. For that I can only apologise, but I do so without regret, because it did enable me to be close enough to the stagefront to deploy THE PANTS.

I feel like they deserve capitals because, at 19, much as I was confident and bubbly, sexual and friendly, I was not a small girl by any stretch of the imagination. Before the show, having developed a hard-on for the Har Mar after watching him on T4 or some similar Saturday morning, hangover and cereal program, I had rifled through my top draw searching for a good pair. Having decided that hitting the chubby lothario smack in the face with my minge juice was not altogether pleasant, but wanting to do something to draw his intense gaze and magnetic attention, I decided to chuck a clean pair at his sweat-dribbling head.

I selected my sexiest and scrawled my name and number on the bum in sharpie. So far, so good. Unfortunately, my 'sexiest pair' were pretty damn horrible. Enormous, faux-satin, sky-blue knickers with lemon-yellow ribbons to tie at the side. They were the kind of monstrosity New Look used to sell in the early 00s, that only a clueless teen would think were attractive.

So on to the moment of deployment. It was about three songs in and the Har Mar was entering the ritual-strip part of his act, in which he stared in turn into the front row's eyes, whilst sliding out of his garments and fondling his own chest and hair until he was a dripping, curly ball of 1970s-style, pseudo-macho sexuality in a glittering, glistening metallic posing pouch. The atmosphere was electric.

I scrabbled in my pocket, balled the polyester into my fist, raised my arm in the throng and lobbed them as hard as I could. They arched through the air, opening, floating, gliding and fluttering like that famous plastic bag inAmerican Beauty if it was something constructed from the cutting-floor of a cheap seamstress. The Har Mar glanced up and they floated gently and satisfyingly onto his face. He plucked them off and, to my absolute delight, rubbed them on his face and used them to wipe the drizzling glow off his lightly grizzled chest. He then danced with them draped in one hand for the rest of the song, like an aggressively straight Morrissey.

The problem with this was that the gig was full of similarly desperate, screaming, boobular young women. There was a breathless pause while they analysed my movement and the precise effect and then, as soon as they saw that the Har Mar received it well, nay, revelled in it, as soon as they noted his mild, flattered joy, then to the left and right, to the back and front, panties were being torn off as quickly as they were able to strip and rip them. What followed was a cascading hailstorm of used underwear which the Har Mar was forced to dodge, accompanied by various flashes of flesh as women indelicately undressed in haste. I've no doubt tThe Har Mar is used to this kind of treatment, but a little part of me is proud to have instigated such an obvious display of rabid young lust.

Obviously, I was excited about his latest offering of tongue-in-cheek, retro sounds. I was richly rewarded for my anticipation by an album which is his best musically. There is depth, beauty and a special brand of 1970s funk. At the same time, it is never stale or lacking in energy. This is paced, exhilarating retro, belonging more in a Tarantino movie than a seedy bar.

This is also the album which makes the most of his frankly wonderful voice. Accomplished singing is not something one immediately associates with the Har Mar; he hides his talent well beneath a bushel of smut, jokes, winks, and exaggerated style. Nevertheless, this album proves to any doubters that under the slimed-up leer is a well-oiled vocal tract capable of beautiful things.

This album allows him a showcase, stronger tunes and longer notes alongside a range that is perfectly suited. That's not to say it is not still jazzy as fuck (in the way clothing can be 'jazzy', not as in actual jazz). The thrumming fast beat will definitely make you want to dance.

All the tracks are brilliant but if I had to pick one it would be 'Prisoner'. The range of voice and timbre conveys honest emotion. It is also genuinely funny, juxtaposing quirky lyrics with soulful music to create deadpan depth. I will say, however, that in some ways this album feels a little distant. His other work is so engaging, aimed at the audience with a wink and a nod, but this one implies a distance through its deeper subtlety and musical worth.

Whereas his earlier albums were smutty, raucous jokes which ensured the listener was in on it, reaching out to deliberately prod you from afar, this simply gestures at you with a smile from across the room. It has a kind of mystery, an allure that is impossible to place. If his breakthrough work was a bawdy cry for attention in the outer world, then this seems to be a gently chuckling invitation into his own, interior world.

There are jokes, sure, but there is also intimacy. Perhaps it's a decade of maturity making a difference. It's a wonderful place to observe but it does leave a funny taste in the mouth, not unpleasant but unfamiliar. On occasion it clashes with the comedy lyrics and means he seems to not be Har Mar but a new beast who happens to have the same face. It leaves a lingering sense of disconnect; not a lack of energy, but a momentary confusion. That said, it's a beautiful vision and a bold move. Even the most carefully drawn parody eventually gets stale, and this is so much more.

It is interesting to review Har Mar's career and how he explores retro styles while somehow always managing a contemporary fit. In the early 00s, he hit the references of the day, blending Craig David with retro Jackson, and 80s RnB. Now he's deeper, with an emphasis on voice but in many ways this echoes the rise of acts like Adele and Plan B.

The Har Mar is undoubtedly a glorious person and I think it's unlikely that he'll ever truly flop, but I will admit that he is an act that is better live. On stage, he exudes chemistry and gets to reveal and revel in his talent, with wit and a hard tongue-flick.

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