By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Those who can't do teach, those who can't rock become rock critics and those who can't play instruments become DJs. Or so we've been told, anyway -- by idiots. If you find yourself subscribing to any of the aforementioned precepts, wrap your head around this: Regular RFT contributor Andrew Broder (he holds forth on the Wu-Tang Clan this week) is not only a great hip-hop DJ but also a future rock star. OK, we can't predict for sure whether Broder, who records and performs under the name Fog, will go multiplatinum, but he sure has a general whiff of fanciness about him. The excruciatingly hip Ninja Tune label recently reissued the 23-year-old's self-titled debut, which he originally released in September 2000, on his own Dinkytown Records label. Now the UK tastemakers and Eurosnobs are all over his skinny white ass. Glossy British monthly The Face decrees Fogto be "electro/indie angst of the highest order"; a review in the March Mojo calls it "revelatory ... challenging and sometimes extraordinarily beautiful." Granted, such gloopy blurbs might come across as standard-issue Brit-crit hyperbole, but in this case it happens to be true.
Maybe Fog hasn't cured cancer yet, but fuck it if he hasn't come close: The CD is unlike anything we've ever heard, a headphones-and-spliff-friendly blend of turntable pyrotechnics, experimental glitch and gorgeous indie-rock gloom. With its requisite slacker self-loathing, psycho-collage effects and queasy guitar, Fog is a bit like Radiohead remixed by Dr. Dre in outer space. At the risk of sounding like one of those grandiose Mojo dudes, we're gonna jump on the bandwagon and agree that Broder pretty much reinvents rock for the 21st century. True, he's not the first person to cut and scratch over an electric guitar, but he's the first person to do it in a way that doesn't make us want to vomit. If you're imagining something like Limp Bizkit, think again. Vocally, there's some Thom Yorke-ish keening and some Beckish mumbling but -- thank God! -- no Durstian rapping; the hip-hop influence on this record is much smarter and more subtle than anything that rapcore frat-fuck ever imagined. Fog plays the turntable as though it were any other instrument, and, layered over guitar, synths and the occasional cello, said turntable never sounds gimmicky or tacked-on.
We've been itching to write about Fog for some time now -- ever since his Litterthugz homie Doug Surreal first loaned us the disc -- but certain qualms got in the way. First of all, he lives in Minneapolis, which makes his presence in a local-music column hard to justify. But justify it we can: In addition to occasionally slinging wax with the Litterthugz and wielding a brush in the Paint Louisgraffiti-fest (R.I.P.), Broder's originally from St. Louis Park, Minn. Coincidence? We think not. And lest you think we're giving him undeserved props because he writes for this paper's music section, let us remind you that Radar Station despises every last one of those lazy bastards, always loitering around and trying to scam on our swag. To quote our mentor, Brenda Starr, "'Freelancing' is just another word for 'I don't really want to work!'"
For more information on Fog, see www.ninjatune.net
This week marks the long-awaited release of the Uncle Tupelo retrospective, Uncle Tupelo 89/93: An Anthology (Columbia/Legacy). With liner notes by former UT manager (and erstwhile Euclid Records manager) Tony Margherita, the disc is an excellent overview of the band's storied career. Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy picked the 21 tracks, which they culled mostly from UT's four studio albums, although there are a few choice rarities, too. As Tupelo fanatics from the get-go, we have a few quibbles -- songs we love that didn't make the cut ("Anodyne," for instance), songs we think are, relatively speaking, only so-so (the strained and borderline-hokey cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog") -- but hey, it's not a Radar Station mix tape, nor should it be.
The most influential rock band to spring from these parts since Chuck Berry, UT is widely credited with launching the alt-country movement. Yeah, Nelly probably sells more CDs in a month than UT sells in a decade, but it's a safe bet that people will be listening to the boys from Belleville long after the U. City cuddlethug's 15 minutes have elapsed. (Don't you fret, Nelly: Radar Station will always love you!). Another bonus: After protracted legal scuffling with their first label, Rockville Records, UT may, with the release of this anthology, finally get the chance to collect some long-overdue royalties.
Former Drift frontwoman Brandy Johnson celebrates the release of her new CD, Worried/Well,on Saturday, March 23, at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room. Although her voice still sounds a lot like Natalie Merchant's, Johnson seems to be coming into her own as a songwriter and arranger. Her graceful alto finds its perfect backdrop in these moody, Moog-kissed soundscapes, and the songs, though somewhat similar in tone and tempo, are smart and slick without being show-offy. We'd known for a while that Johnson is a Red House Painters fan, but the influence seemed unlikely until now: Her sound is glossier, sure, and her conventionally pretty voice -- not to mention her conventionally pretty face -- doesn't scream indie cred, but just below the shiny surface is a similar melancholia.