This is Jesse Hartman. Actor, director, acerbic New Yorker, pretend pugilist, and a silhouette whom I’m beginning to suspect is the Keyser Söze of smart and sassy electronic pop music; Laptop is currently in the studio working on its fourth album ‘Positive’ reads the front page of his band’s website. It’s an announcement that’s been present for almost as long as the internet itself…
Which isn’t fair, of course – a low musical profile doesn’t automatically equate to a Harlem hermitage, or a life running international organized crime behind a limp and a Kevin Spacey fright mask (indeed, a quick trawl elsewhere suggests that it’s Hartman the film-maker / East Village urbanite who’s been in the ascendency of late). The title of the post remains valid however; as Laptop, Hartman released three albums between 2000 and 2003. Music that’s unafraid to flaunt its loft apartment popster heritage – with all the connotations of corniness that may imply – yet beyond the mannequin glamour, these are tracks that focus their attentions upon a sharp and witty exposé of modern urban living. The familiar vista of mundanity and emotional insecurity that we see on movie screens and in mirrors, yet played with a deft, coy entertainment value.
For me, electro-pop works best when the default upbeat / cheesy affectations are spliced with shades of darkness, ennui, an antithesis to the sterilised future Gene Roddenberry had in mind for us – and I think that’s one reason why I find Hartman’s records so appealing (he has form here, having been one of Richard Hell’s Voidoids for a while, as well as being a member of long-forgotten art-pop band Sammy). In the opening line I’ve used the words New York and sassy, and that’s entirely deliberate; these are the overriding sentiments of Laptop tracks, a slo-mo subway journey to Coney Island and back. Even the tracks made more famous by others retain this knowing deadpan glint (including ‘Whole Wide World’ by Wreckless Eric, and a live, tongue-in-cheek rendition of Billy Joel’s ‘It’s Still Rock ‘N’ Roll To Me’, where the camp shrug of shoulders spell subversion).
So yeah, it’s been nine long years, Mr Hartman – feel free to make that epic (or even laconic) return.
Laptop / Back Together
Laptop / It’s Still Rock ‘N’ Roll To Me