Friday, August 26, 2011

Charlie Mars – Apparently, A Backstreet Boy for a New Generation

After a summer hiatus, I returned to my quest for good music by venturing to the Saxon Pub last night to catch Charlie Mars. I can honestly say, I can’t remember how he found his way onto my radar. I think it was one of those automated “if you like this, you might like that” recommends. All I know for certain is one day Like a Bird, Like a Plane arrived, and I added it to my iPod. Then, I forgot to listen to it. A few months later, I read he was doing a month of Thursdays at the Saxon Pub, so I started listening. Intrigued, I made my plan to pay him a call.

Charlie Mars reminds me of a cross between an earnest singer/songwriter type that’s drawn to the dark side, such as Johnny Cash, and Sting, circa The Dream of the Blue Turtles. His lyrics are poetic, with defined hooks, which allow glimpses of complicated relationships and altered mental states. Its poetry delivered with a breathy drawl, steeped in melancholy.

In contrast, his music is, well, groovy. Listening to it, you’ll undoubtedly find your hips subtly swaying, your eyes closed, and a glass of wine in your hand. Like a Bird, Like a Plane, has a compelling, sinuous rhythm – excellent for those occasions when it seems appropriate to display how those years of Pilates have allowed your hip to move in opposition to your waist.

Having explored his music in the privacy of my own home, I was looking forward to the Saxon. What would Charlie bring for his “man-alone-on-stage-with-a-guitar” mode? I admit, I was caught completely unawares.

I entered the Saxon to a standing-room only crowd. After a quick stop at the bar for essentials, I found a home by the rail overlooking the room and began to observe. It didn’t take me long to realize I had inadvertently stumbled into a gathering of my exact demographic: 85% of the audience was female, aged 25-45. Almost every male in the room was attached to one of the females, obviously acting as chaperone. Interesting.

Charlie took the stage a fashionable (and slightly irritating) 15 minutes late, carrying a set list sketched on a torn piece of cardboard. He was presentable, but his appearance alone could not account for the waves of surging estrogen in the room. Average height, dirty blonde hair and green eyes, he wore the scruffy-but-hygienic musician look like a pro. His guitar work had more style than technical expertise, but he accompanied himself easily, working percussive touches into his chord work. Okay, his songs were poetic and his breathy vocals compelling, but I was at a loss when this crowd of seemingly intelligent women started singing along… in complete unison… like a hypnotized and eroticized choir to Meet Me by the Backdoor.

Charlie: “Whoa oh oh, why don’t you meet me by the backdoor yo-oh?”

Those Girls: “I can meet you, yeah I can meet you.”

Charlie: “I can meet you by the backdoor, yo-oh. Why don’t you meet me by the backdoor yo-oh.”

Those Girls: “I can meet you, yeah I can meet you.”

Betty, Slack Jawed with Horror: "Oh. Ma. Gawd."

I suppose I could analyze this phenomenon for hours: the cliché of women who love musicians; the caretaker wanting to nurture the artist; the desire to be the muse; the bad boy thing; fame; the reversal of power roles now that women can earn more money than men…. there's plenty of psychology there. Instead, I’ll confess: my THAT GIRL principles were so offended that, rather than linger and admit I had his CD in my purse ready for an autograph, I bolted the moment he left the stage. I simply couldn’t be seen standing unchaperoned in that throng of star struck women. I wasn’t going to be THAT GIRL by association just for a signature. (SHUDDER)

In conclusion, Charlie Mars is a solidly talented musician. His music is a little pop-sounding, but I like it. I look forward to his new album. I find his tortured, scruffy-but-hygienic artist image a little to contrived for my taste. I sincerely congratulate him on the acquisition of such a dedicated fan base. I encourage you give him a listen. I encourage you to go see his show. But please, I beg of you, don’t join that hypnotized and eroticized choir. And if disaster should strike, and every shred of dignity leave your body, for the love of god, please, don’t tell me.

I really like this song.

This one is steeped in melancholy:

But this one now brings on a PTSD episode.