Peter Hadar - Well Dressed for the Art Show (2008)

Peter Hadar
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On Well Dressed for the Art Show, indie soul's dapper dandy dresses up an old suit of sound with a pair of fresh gators, a paisley handkerchief and one killin' bowler cap, but artist Peter Hadar never quite gets us to that much promised art show. On this highly anticipated date night, a production upgrade from his introductory debut, Memories of the Heart, our well-mannered chap certainly tries his ample best to drive us to the cocktail party. The GQ gentleman's sophomore vehicle revs up with an impressive roar, but before we can even settle in for a funky ride to champagne riches and caviar dreams, we're stuck along the roadside with a little engine trouble.

On Well Dressed for the Art Show, indie soul's dapper dandy dresses up an old suit of sound with a pair of fresh gators, a paisley handkerchief and one killin' bowler cap, but artist Peter Hadar never quite gets us to that much promised art show. On this highly anticipated date night, a production upgrade from his introductory debut, Memories of the Heart, our well-mannered chap certainly tries his ample best to drive us to the cocktail party. The GQ gentleman's sophomore vehicle revs up with an impressive roar, but before we can even settle in for a funky ride to champagne riches and caviar dreams, we're stuck along the roadside with a little engine trouble.

Opening Well is a driving Motown backbeat, insistent chord progression and urgent vocal delivery that has us gearing up for a party. The hyperkinetic "Fresh" whets our whistle for an art show of eclectic treasures for refined tastes. Following "Fresh" is Well's equally stirring first single, "Painted," a funhouse of carnival sounds, warped psychedelic organ, and Peter offering up his most open vocals to date. Following such an auspicious start, we're feeling pretty good about accepting this classy dude's invite. Feeling more secure about the ride we've undertaken, we lean in for a closer listen. Now why the hell did we do that?

It's about this time-say about track four-that we start noticing something a bit imitative about this fly guy's style. We were cool with the Andre 3000 flairs on "Fresh" because the song lived up to its title. However, despite its otherworldly production, the tone, hook, and vocal arrangement on "Planets" is much too derivative of Eric Roberson's early tailoring. For me at least, there's just too much Erro's "Hold On" and "Please Don't Leave Me" in Hadar's detailing. Dwele's panache also receives Hadar's "sincerest form of flattery" on "Laugh Together." Humorously, there's even something in Hadar's phrasing that is a little Jimmy Cozier on that Gap Kid's one-hit wonder, "She's All I Got."

Hackneyed or not, Hadar's monotonous vocal approach to each and every slow-to-mid-tempo groove isn't what's keeping us strapped into the passenger seat. Driving along familiar dead-end streets, we notice that it's Hadar's dark, electronica heavy production that's keeping the ride interesting. Since Hadar's sing-talk rhyme skills are sugar in the gas tank, it's the new wave 80s production that prevents the sputtering engine from straight choking on "Ocean Wet." A tune-up in a bottle, "Laugh Together" benefits from a sophisticated arrangement that's long on transitions, counterpoints, and a production sound that summons midnight scenes from Risky Business and Blade Runner. Hadar's shadowy production touch is brilliantly repeated to seductive effect on "Purple Pill" and its remix, the deliciously lazy "Sleeping Pills." The moody, dynamic production keeps us hopeful that Well will deliver us to that promised original art, at least musically if not vocally. Having seen Peter's live vocals completely blow the roof off a club, I was hopeful. You know what they say about hope, right?

While we never quite make it to the full exhibition we're owed in the vocal department, Hadar does eventually show us a piece or two that's all his own on the ride back home. It was Hadar's artistic risk-taking on his critical debut that first made him an indie darling, a welcome boldness that does randomly appear on Well. Murky in its morality and raising a few eyebrows, "Cheat On You" is one of this project's most compelling album cuts. The casually elegant keys, percussive horseback riding rhythms, and doubled vocals drive listeners over the lyrical potholes of this all hook and no verse tune. Hadar again puts his foot on the gas with the catchy vogue chant on "RSVP." It's the playful musical ADD of "Fresh," "RSVP" and more subtly on "Staple Me" that makes one appreciate Hadar's artistic potential and long for him to make more music that inspires full body movement rather than droning head-bobbing. As Hadar is marketed more as a lounge and dance-oriented artist than a soul singer, it's not too much to ask him to at least help us sweat through our Sunday best if we're not going to swill some Cris with the upper crust. Maybe when Hadar takes us dancing again, I won't feel like he got us all dressed up with no place to go.  Mildly recommended.

--L. Michael Gipson

 
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