by Michael Anderson
Har Mar Superstar has always been a lot of fun. He has a list of collaborators bigger than he is, and a manically energetic, virtually nude stage presence that makes him a sure thing for festivals. No one on you really wanna see? Go catch Har Mar Superstar: you will have an awesome time. He’s always been the guy in the kitchen at some house party, making cocktails way too strong, hitting on anything with legs, yelling profanities, breakdancing into vases, pissing off the DJ. What he has not been is taken seriously as a recording artist, and Best Summer Ever is unlikely to change this.
His sixth – sixth!! – LP bids adios to the scuzz-bucket jokey hip hop and the cod-soul crooning of previous efforts, replaced by a self-styled “Greatest Hits of Har Mar Superstar, 1950-1985”. So now he can pick and choose genres as he likes, employing that versatile and pretty sweet voice to anything from, let’s see now, 80’s synth-pop, to 80’s funk, to 80’s balladeering, to 80’s fifties throwback… he could probably go ahead and shorten that timespan, just a little. Exceptions include the impressively irritating ‘My Radiator’ (novelty song klaxon) and ‘Famous Last Words’, whose riff owes more to Teenage Kicks than Teenage Kicks’ does, but otherwise we are firmly in Ronald Reagan territory.
There is good stuff on here. Opener “Haircut” hints soulfully at a woozy summer concept album, a forgotten radio station drifting over your neighbour’s fence, all handclaps and echoes; while “It Was Only Dancing (Sex)” ciphers fellow 80’s-fiends and sometime collaborators Neon Neon to enjoyable John Hughes-montage effect. Elsewhere, a succession of pleasant melodies and quirks of production regularly worm their way into one ear and right out the other, waiting for the six-piece to give them their due come the tour.
Make no mistake: these songs will kill on stage, but on speakers or headphones nothing sticks beyond Har Mar’s singular inability to drop the act he’s successfully flogged for 15 years, as he strives for authenticity but struggles to find any emotion amidst the pastiche. You really sense the effort here, and effort is never a good look – “my confidence is just skin-deep”, he confesses at the album’s close, and your heart breaks at the tears of a clown. The party has finished and the guy just wants someone to talk to. Maybe put some clothes on and try again.
Best Summer Ever is released on Cult Records on April 15th, 2016