"Dear Man" by Bar Pandora with Simply DreadReview
It's great to review Bar Pandora for the first time in the magazine & I'm sure that it will not be the last time.
One of those projects we occasionally feature which is essentially a single lead person with a evolving cast of collaborators, the key name on this occasion is Charlie Tophill. The name Bar Pandora references a literary café in Madrid where she hung out discussing "..literature, life and feminism.."
Her new single "Dear Man" is the first fruit of an Arts Council England funded body of work created with producer Simply Dread (Dave Jordan) and follows her last September's "Lover"
Charlie describes her music as "alt pop" yet also outlines her methodology as tracks being "playfully sewn together from the offcuts of personal experience- field recordings, journal entries and improvised fragments of music": which to me is exciting & intriguing yet suggests something more avant garde than popular. However I'm sure that accessibility is in her mind as despite the cut up approach to initial creation, she is keen to structure these elements to "bop along to a rich undercurrent of harmonic synths, guitars and pop beats."
I'd imagine that Simply Dread must have played a part in this aspect of "Dear Man" (the lyrics are so personal & specific that I assume them to be purely Charlie's work) and it works really nicely as a smooth & sinuous piece of pop, perhaps with a few nods to late 70s/early 80s jazz funk in there.
It's seductive & draws you right into the song & in this respect she plays the part of the siren as the narrative is far from light or sunny. I do appreciate when artists do this: sometimes setting lyrics to "appropriate" arrangements is the only thing to do, but if you can get away with juxtapositions like this, you can add some extra special dynamics.
As I say, the story seems one of those from Charlie's diary given how specific it is: dealing with someone who seems far from completely together & suffering the consequent emotional impacts: however the pay off seems somewhat affectionate rather than rancour ("Dear Man. You Idiot"), perhaps as the narrator feels some complicity in the out come
Of bitterness felt nowadays
Tinged with not-moderate guilt")
Nevertheless, we still have to consider the tensions of conflicting thoughts in the telling & the possibility that Charlie may not necessarily be presenting herself as a wholly reliable narrator: "..my lyrics are made up of my inner voices: the one that tells my story, the one that tells me what I want to do, the one that tells me I can't do it, and the one that tells me that last voice was full of shit."
How much control she feels she has over this, she does not say, though I'd hope she has a little more control over them than for example "Hot Music Live" regular Daffod'i'll does…..
That she also describes the projects as one "seeking to redress the balance of a life shadowed by self-imposed limitation and baseless inhibition", there is presumably a sense here too of confronting the issues raised in the lyrics & overcoming any negativity in them or the voices.
All of which is very much an intellectualised response to the song, which though honestly intended on my part, on its own sells the song very short of what it deserves.
You can get a lot out of analysing "Dear Man" against Charlie's articulate mission statement, but you can also simply enjoy it for how you find it: and as I think it will gain good airplay (Bar Pandora feature regularly on BBC Introducing for Coventry & Warwickshire), I imagine many listeners will thus appreciate the tune even if the subversion of the words passes them by a little.
Charlie also aims "to make music with gut and gusto, to follow the feels, and to be creative for the sheer fun of it" and the song has vim & vigour for sure & in the subversive element, is playful rather than malicious. It will make you think though...
I'm sorry that this is the first time I've written about Bar Pandora, but I don't intend it to be the final time. I imagine there will be more tunes with Simply Dread to come & then presumably new collaborations will occur. I think we should expect the unexpected here.