Come together right now

by Keri Carlson

Postmodernism can seem like a pretty scary thing sometimes. As scatterbrained and collaged as modernism is, at least it relies on reason to give the world some meaning. With modernism there is a faith that the world can be changed. But with postmodernism, the outlook on life is more cynical. Life has little to no meaning and no purpose, so why kid yourself?

If society has truly reached a postmodern state, don’t let all the self-conscious, disillusioned souls bring you down too much. Look toward Andrew Broder of Fog and Jonathan Wolf of Why? for inspiration. Both of these artists produced albums that rank among this year’s best and certainly most innovative and original.

Fog’s single “What a Day Day” masterfully mixes a sampled chorus of bizarre “Hey, oh heys” before Broder delves into the lyrics: “The ex-boyfriends are cowering inside the SA, when Hitler marches down Lyndale like the Champs-Elysses.” The low-fi romp that commanded the song’s opening then breaks down and Broder whines: “If you need me, call my lawyer” while the song exhaustingly concludes with a looped “Lather, rinse, repeat.”

Why?’s entire album, “Oaklandazulasylum,” is a blur between bedroom emo and rambling hip-hop weaving in and out of Speak & Spell or electronic barn animal sound samples.

Broder and Wolf both brilliantly piece together very separate images, many times employing multiple pop culture references as though they were channel surfing through TV commercials. They string these images loosely into one song so there is a vague sense of connection but not enough to know for sure what the artist intended, only enough for the listener to draw his or her own conclusions.

Now Broder and Wolf have teamed up to create Hymie’s Basement. Both these artists appeared to be very much solo fliers – very intent on portraying their broken-mirror vision of the world. Adding a partner wouldn’t seem to be the best choice. Yet, Broder and Wolf’s nasally vocals blend together perfectly along with their song-writing interests.

Their pop senses are even more vibrant together, especially on the appropriately titled “21st Century pop Song,” in which Wolf sputters through a sullen rap that depicts the latest breakfast cereal in the shape of the nation’s borders while Broder sweetly warbles, “Root, root, root for the home team, shout like your dad at the TV screen.”

The self-titled album shifts from catchy pop hooks with intense layers of guitars, turntables, pianos and more, to sparse and ambient arrangements. This helps add to Hymie’s unpredictability and intrigue.

The album begins with feelings of alienation in capitalism and technology. An especially riveting moment is when Broder softly chants, “Microwave, meet your maker.”

The middle dabbles in the absurdities of the heart – both as an organ and an emotion. Closer to the end, Broder and Wolf show disgust and almost shame in their masculinity as “America Too” states, “Props to Ornette Coleman for trying to castrate himself. Males of the world you are despicable.” It definitely represents a new path of male representation from Freud’s tiresome penis obsessions.

Hymie’s Basement captures the postmodern turn by never focusing on one central idea. And when the album does spin off on a certain topic, it demonstrates society’s attitudes, or Broder and Wolf’s own disillusion about the subjects covered. Broder and Wolf may critique U.S. society, but it’s a cry filled with a sense of hopelessness.

The album closes with death. “Lightning Bolts and Man Hands” rattles through a series of comical ways to kick the bucket, including “slip on a banana peel to death.” “You Die” closes the album with a soaring and lovely sample of strings over a gently scratched beat and concludes that when you die, you become nothing more than an invisible or indefinable object such as a color, number, laughter and sound. Some might find that bleak, but after listening to the entire album, the conclusion of Hymie’s Basement is actually satisfying. And despite the postmodernism, you feel pretty complete.