Patrick Widdess reports on Harry Merry - The Portland Arms 2 February 2011

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire

Bad Timing has brought quirky, experimental artists from all corners of the world to Cambridge. I generally have little or no prior knowledge of the acts booked to play but you can always be sure of a unique and unforgettable performance.
    The music and videos of Dutch synth-pop supremo Harry Merry available online suggest a musician who has just stepped off the yellow submarine after a jam session with the fab four. The energetic multi-layered synth-pop songs provide an intense soundtrack to his one-man show. Harry’s pale, chubby face, thick mop of black hair and black and white striped outfit make him a powerful stage presence. The shadowy back room of the Portland feels like a twisted dreamworld from a David Cronenberg movie when he steps up to his keyboard mounted on a couple of beer crates.
    He introduces himself in good English pronouncing each word slowly and carefully like an elementary level English student doing an oral test. When he strikes up the first song he quickly shifts to top gear. Sharkie Supermachine is a song as absurd as it sounds. Jangly keyboards and clattering drums clash with distorted guitar at a riotous pace. Harry grins manically as he belts out the lyrics thrashing his head and doing robot dances between verses. He seems at odds with the small audience who look on bemused during this typically wacky opener but the Bad Timing crowd expect challenging performances and everyone is truly warmed up by the time he reaches what is carefully introduced as ‘the second song.’
    Harry’s music is interwoven with influences as varied as glam rock, French chansons and Slovenian pop to name a few. His lyrics are punchy, random and witty, ‘Jailbird keep your hands off Miss Hilton,’ goes the refrain in one. He brings the set to a somber finish. Stepping away from the keyboard and off the stage he clutches the mike, swaying like a forlorn clown crooning melancholy closer Clarissa.
    A joyous 40 minutes in the hands of an inimitable musician and performance artist.

Writer: Patrick Widdess