Fog
Hummer
Ninja Tune
2004
B-



a spectre is haunting music—the spectre of Radiohead. Thankfully, unlike the vast majority of cases where the comparison would be warranted, Fog doesn’t sound like it’s trying to be The Bends or OK Computer, however. Instead, much of Hummer sounds like the better b-sides from the Kid A era. For the first forty seconds of “Whom That Hits Walls” I thought I might have been listening to an awesome hybrid of “Kinetic” and “The Amazing Sounds Of Orgy”. Now, I love those songs (and most of the castoffs from this recent period, actually), but I’m aware many don’t. Which is probably why Fog isn’t getting featured reviews in other music magazines the way, say, Muse is.

But then after those forty seconds, the song collapses into random beeps and rustles. It picks up momentum again and messes around for a few more minutes, then cuts out. It is thankfully the most obtuse piece here, and the only one in which that obtuseness obscures the song rather than aiding it. The title track follows with massed synthetic voices as a background and Broder’s Yorkian vocals, but there’s a cohesiveness to the sound and, not to harp on it, it doesn’t merely sound like the work of another band.

The slight intro that comes next probably only gets a track index so that Broder can call it “Not Every Goddamn Little Thing You Do Needs A Title”, as it leads seamlessly into the relatively stunning “I, Baby”. “I, Baby” starts out with an almost funeral air of muted piano as Broder sings from an infantile perspective (“When I grow uppee / Me get strongy / Me lifty!”). It’s strangely touching even before, in the last forty seconds of the track, trashcan style percussion comes in. Even then, the song’s not much, just a piano and some banging, but it works.

I swear this is the last time I’ll make this point, but that is probably where Fog has the most in common with latter-day Radiohead. Both bands work best by conveying a specific, strong feeling in their works, aided by or despite their lyrics (and in each case, those lyrics are pretty variable in quality). Hummer shows Broder crafting powerfully affecting music by himself and with relatively few tools. “Melted Crayons” starts out with the question “Are you unarguably ugly?” and ends with the repeated directive “Drink melted crayons, Foofie / Drink every color in the box” and yet it’s not without tenderness, especially once the guitar part near the end comes in.

“Cockeyed Cookie Pusher” follows, which with that name should not be another poignant ballad. It is. When Broder sings “Once I had a dream / Of an apple orchard scene / And when this life is through / I’ll throw apples at you”, it sounds lovely. His plaintive voice slips and slides around the acoustic strum that forms the center of the song, and it’s as strong a declaration of love as any I’ve heard recently.

Sadly, for a work with such great songs on it, the last one is one of the worst. Like “Whom That Hits Walls”, “The Stink Of Kings” is just slightly too self-consciously difficult and emotionally obscured to tug the same heartstrings the varied middle part of the EP does. Putting the most off-putting tracks here at the beginning and end are a bit of a tactical mistake, but at the same time even “Whom That Hits Walls” and “The Stink Of Kings” are better, more interesting songs that most anything else being released by, say, Muse. As long as Broder keeps wearing his heart on his sleeve and shows such a deft hand with his musical accompaniment, he should outpace any comparisons such as the one I’ve saddled him with, and soon.



Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-05-05
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