HAR MAR SUPERSTAR
"You Can Feel Me"
Record Collection/Warner Bros.
By now, everyone knows Kelly Osbourne's remarkable story. The feral great-great-granddaughter of shipwrecked Cornish pirates, she was discovered on an island off the coast of Thailand by the catering crew for "Survivor." They brought her back to Los Angeles, where she was adopted by aging vaudevillian Ozzy Osbourne, who groomed her to star in "The Bachelorette." When that didn't work out, Kelly became a contestant on "American Idol." She came in third -- after that guy who looks like a more fey Leo Sayer -- but still was offered a record contract. The result is her debut album, "Shut Up."
Although crafted by a songwriting-production team that has previously worked with Celine Dion and Enrique Iglesias, "Shut Up" is not mainstream pop. It's mainstream pop-punk, modeled on Joan Jett and early Blondie and featuring such new-wavisms as surf-music riffs and shoutalong choruses. (There's even one song title, "Come Dig Me Out," that's very nearly borrowed from Sleater-Kinney.) Tracks like "Disconnected" and "Contradiction" are harder hitting than Avril Lavigne's "Complicated," if not quite so edgy as the "Josie and the Pussycats" soundtrack. After 10 efficient if characterless rockers, the album ends with "More Than Life Itself," in which Osbourne demonstrates why an album of Dion-like ballads would have been a terrible mistake. For longtime fans of this short-lived phenomenon, however, the highlight may be the hidden track: Osbourne's sorta punky version of that beloved Ukrainian folk standard, "Papa Don't Preach."
In the matter of Har Mar Superstar, there are two possibilities: Either he is parodying soft-porn hip-hop or he is paying homage to soft-porn hip-hop. Neither option is appealing.
Har Mar is actually Sean Tillmann, an indie-rock veteran who took his name from a shopping center in his native Minnesota. He has claimed that he's sincere, but tracks like "Power Lunch" -- with lines like "Deeper deeper / I can't feel your beeper" and "Baby, I want to interface" -- suggest otherwise. On "You Can Feel Me," Tillmann and a bunch of pals, many of them minor indie-label luminaries, blather over simple beats and loops, dropping enough smut-rap cliches to suggest that BET is available in Har Mar land. Tillmann even denounces "haters," as if this half-baked 29-minute effort could summon such strong emotions. What he really should worry about are "yawners."
-- Mark JenkinsBoth appearing Monday at the Black Cat. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Kelly Osbourne, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8106; to hear Har Mar Superstar, press 8107. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)