There's a grand, cruel irony at work in Sean Tillman's career as Har Mar Superstar. It was shtick and schmooze that made Har Mar a local sell-out draw a decade ago. People flocked to the concept of him, and balked at his reality the morning after-- a pudgy, balding, short, white man stripping naked to joke pop tunes? Oh, the audacity!
Har Mar performing "Body Request" on the Sharon Osbourne Show.
But the press loved it. The notices for his first two staunchly mediocre albums were remarkably high, and it was these works that brought him from the Turf Club to the Whiskey, and scored him residencies at clubs in London and invites to the VMAs.
So what's the grand, cruel irony here?
It's that when at last Tillman became musically mature enough to release a masterpiece in 2004's The Handler (yes, we're using "masterpiece" in all sincerity), the press sniffed and sneezed. "The joke," they cried, "has worn out its welcome." Apparently, no one listened hard enough to notice that Tillman wasn't joking anymore.
In any case, the next album, Dark Touches, is slated for an October 12 release, and features a track that was pitched to Britney Spears, and ultimately rejected. Gimme Noise was fortuntate enough to hear a life performance of "Tall Boy" some months ago, when Har Mar performed it at the Turf Club. We can tell you all that Spears would have been wise to accept the work-- it's a nuggest of pop wizardry, a mix of vintage soul and modern club pop that has become Har Mar's M.O.
Sure, the schtick is still there. Har Mar still makes out with the front row (and is always gentleman enough to request I.D.'s at all-ages shows). But the product that schtick now advertises has done a lot of growing up. Here's hoping critical awareness does the same.