The man I referred to as a “pop music god” in last week’s LinkFrogging released Dark Touches, his fourth album in eight years, today. Like all of his previous records, Dark Touches hits you like a Trojan horse; you don’t REALLY figure it out until you’re in too deep.
Despite being about 5’5 with a slight paunch, Har Mar owns the stage during his live shows, gyrating and stripping until every show ended with him wearing little more than sweat, skivies and a sneer, twirling the microphone like a nightclub singer and belting out a disco favorite like “Sir Duke.”
So it’s a performance piece, right? I mean, you don’t make cheesy music videos, repeatedly talk about how awesome you are, cultivate an image as a Ron Jeremy lookalike and still take yourself seriously, do you? Well, sorta.
Dark Touches rivals The Handler as possibly his best. But where the 2004 album (and 2002’s You Can Feel Me before it) had callbacks and influences from musical icons like Stevie Wonder and the Jackson Five, Touches has a more contemporary sound. The lead single, “Tall Boy,” – a shamefully catchy song he originally wrote for Britney Spears, then recorded himself, keeping the female perspective – shows off one of his trademarks: making double entendres out of EVERYTHING. On “Creative Juices” (see what I mean?) he shoots off carefully chosen pop culture references so quickly that it comes off like a hybrid of “My Humps” and “Fire Water Burn.” One of the later tracks, “Almond Joy,” sounds like an R-rated b-side from New Kids On The Block. But throughout the entire album, there’s never an overt punchline or even a hint of sarcasm. There’s no joke. Get it?
Justin Timberlake is the closest thing we’ve got to a self-aware pop star, making occasionally-cheesy chart-toppers then going on SNL to mock himself and his peers. But Har Mar does him one better – he’s a pop star with a keen sense of irony and no apparent fear. He skewers the pop star condition by completely committing to being one himself. There’s no winking to the audience; if you like it, you don’t need an explanation.
That’s not to say Tillman is trying to be this generation’s Andy Kaufman: besides the new album, he stars (as Har Mar Superstar, doing kind of a reverse Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson thing) in a series of “Crappy Holidays” web videos and recently landed a developmental deal with HBO alongside friends Ellen Page (Juno) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development).
With all these new projects, it’s hopefully only a matter of time before the rest of the world understands the greatness Har Mar Superstar. I’m not saying you should get in the ground floor. I just want to make sure you were warned.