US - Minnesota - Full Moon 104 - 03/25/05
10th Avenue Freakout
I have good memories from Fog's debut album. There was something about the way he played that turntable like nobody else that opened this valve in my head. It was a valve that allowed certain experiences flow in and so easily get stored indefinitely, recalled, flooding me, when anyone so much as mentioned the band. The songs on Andrew Broder's debut were so brilliant. It was paced so well and had such great melodies. It had an opening invocation by MF Doom. What an incredible album.
Of course, his debut had the extra good fortune of taking several years to make. Try as I may, and want as I might, I was not impressed by Mr. Broder's sophomore outing. There were a few good songs and the rest never would stop boring me. Damned high expectations killed me on that album, as is often wont to happen when a debut is so great. It wasn't that I didn't like some new direction Fog was taking, or a way in which he was growing, the songs simply weren't opening that valve anymore. Well, it's been sometime, and again I've been waiting for something new out of Fog. I still have those same high expectations for the man's music, probably more so now than before. So just what do we have here, this album called 10th Avenue Freakout? Well, it's not much of a freakout, to tell you the truth.
If any kind of freakout it's a slow and quiet one. In a lot of ways he hasn't moved away from his sophomore territory that I remember being so boring to me: too much singing, long rambling verses and melodies, guitar noodles, and a very annoying absence of interesting sounds from the tables. I mean, he used to play
freakout-melodies on his turntable. Remember "Pnuemonia"? I'm sorry but I miss that sort of thing. This isn't a terrible album but I think the standards Broder set with his debut are yet to have been improved on.
"Can You Believe It" uses a home-recorded drum loop and a black-button organ chord progression. The melody isn't bad in this song, but I think his voice sounds too "indie rockish". He used to sound like a sick old man, I don't understand the progression from that to soft/clear indie boy. I am fond of the sound
of him singing in octaves though, one pretty darn high, and he does that a lot in this tune. But no matter how hard I try to make it, it's just not a very memorable tune. Even the trumpets don't seem to pull it off.
"We're Running" continues with black-button chords that sound like they might be played on turntables, but you really can't tell. It could just as easily be a keyboard. I am not happy that turntable is so buried on this album. In this song Broder sings "Jesus Chris is
my American Idol/He's the brand new funky president/Victory is certain/This much is certain/And if not you can always start the video game over". Now does that really compare to "I'm hard to fix because/it took me so goddamned long/to figure out/that I broke down" or "I am the venetian blinds in the wintertime"? I think not. The singing just after this is really good, multi-tracked and mixed with trumpet.
10th Avenue Freakout doesn't have an interesting melody. And there's too much noodled electric guitar. There is actually some good turntable playing on this song, buried as it is, but he waits till a boring song like this to do it. I have to say this song is a huge disappointment. "The Rabbit" continues
with the soft and clear voice and really just sounds sort of indie-rockish the whole time. I'm not necessarily knocking indie rock, but I don't think Fog sounds right this way. I am fond of the sax playing and sawbass in this song, but not the breakdowns. When Fog tries to rock and roll like this, it just makes
me feel weird.
"Song About a Wedding" and "Holy Holy Holy" pack a one-two punch that give me hope. These seem the highlights to me. Here he uses his voice in a way more versitile and way less Saddle Creek way. He continues his use of wind instruments here, which I am actually very happy with on this album. Also there's piano
and good lyrics in these two songs.
There's just too much singing/guitar on this album, I think. You can tell the lyrics and melodies are spread more than a little thin. Too much singing and not enough turntable playing. I'm not exactly giving a non-recomendation on this album, I'm just saying that Fog have yet to reach back to that place of misery
where the debut dwelled. But, maybe that's best for Mr. Broder. Still I secretely wish he'd get depressed again.
Copyright © 2005 Eugene Ward