The Dork Grows Up

March 01, 2000

Adam Brodsky: Folk Remedy

Adam Brodsky might be the ugliest man I have ever met. Now granted, I'm not a connoisseur of male hottiehood or nothing, but the last time I saw him he was butt-zilla enough to have passed for Sammy Davis' demon-spawn child with Drew Carey, or maybe even a roadie for Limp Bizkit (Sorry, dude; just callin a spade).

And every time I've ever seen him, wherever it's been, he's played solo, arbitrarily starting fights in the audience, playing one side of the stage off against the other, spending more time ranting about his fuck fantasies involving, oh I dunno, Carmen Electra with the mouthy brunette from Suddenly Susan or whatever, than actually playing his songs,  often going his whole set  without finishing one of them or even getting past the first chorus.

Actually, now that you mention it, if you get a copy of Brodsky's first record, Dork, you'll get a fair approximation of what he's like solo and live, at least in these here parts, all rant and filth, fun to watch though, like the slightly out of control uncle at a wedding telling dirty jokes loud enough for your grandmother to hear but holy fuck are they funny.

So hey, cool, I figured, Adam's a decent cat, bit of a cad, obnoxiously charismatic and as funny as watching Goat-Boy mud-wrestle Tonya Harding. Clap You Fuckers Clap is a total anti-folk anthem for the ages (but it doesn't end, he just stops playing, fuck, how's Bryan Adams ever gonna cover it like that? Shit.), The Day I Woke Up As Bruce Springsteen is the title track to my '81 school year, when I finally realized all I wanted to do was listen to The River and climb up and down Wendy Fraser, all 5-11 of her (5-8 of which was legs), even though I didn't even know really why at the time, it was pretty much the end of my days playing D&D and wanting to be a goalie for the Maple Leafs (you gotta chase yer dreams, baby). Whenever I play Dork for my friends they smile transparently and say, "Of course he's a genius, Tony. Now be a dear and put Baby One More Time back on, okay?"

Sooo, when Adam's new slab came out of the Permanent Records Hit Factory, I figured, hey, more of the same, maybe a little more polished from playing with Ani Difranco & Hamell & being like a record mogul and shit, but once a superliterate malcontent, always a superliterate malcontent.

So where the hell does Adam Fucking Brodsky of all people get off making a record this awesome?

I know. Let's play a game. Shall we?

Let's pretend, sometime in the distant future, when we live on other planets and dress all alike in those shitty undersized Jean-Luc Picard sweaters and can communicate telepathically and we all have virtual red-hot monkey sex in pods with holograms of Susan Sarandon or Denzel Washington, whichever. And in this glorious, brave new future, Antifolk is what everyone listens to. Christina Aguilera's great-great-great-and-soon granddaughter is reduced to breaking her beats at BMW at 6:30 on a Tuesday while Lach, Brenda Kahn, Beck &: Mojo Nixon have had their faces carved onto Mount Rushmore. The demon spawn of Lou Bega is thrashing out "Mambo #14,606" to the backs of the drunks at Raven while they all watching of the Hill with the sound off. It's a beautiful and just world, indeed.

Pope Dave From Dave's Place XXIII passes legislation to have Hamell's "The Meeting" become the official hymn of all remaining religions. Statues of the great Antifolk crusaders line the long pool at the Washington mall as eternal testament to what it took to free the world from the tyranny of culturally inbred mindless aural sewage, and love has basically conquered the world, six ringing acoustic strings at a time.

In that future, if we're lucky, and work hard, and take our vitamins, and keep reading and paying attention to what's going on, and don't bomb each other, and we're very very good, all Antifolk records just might sound like Folk Remedy.

The bright spots on this record shine like fresh Afro-sheen, and yet it still sounds like Brodsky doesn't give a shit about much. He wants the same things he always seems to want: sex, vindication, the Great American Rhyme Scheme, to have Ani Difranco brag about sex with him (hey, he's not confirming or denying any rumors), validation for being so damned clever that his sense of humor goes both over your head and up your ass simultaneously, oh and did I mention humping teenage nubiles like minks in springtime?

Adam either sings like he's bragging in the schoolyard about how fucking cool he is, or like he's about to throw a tantrum over trying to get his point out and you're just- not- understanding him. Sawing away at his guitar like he's got a string endorsement contract, two things lift this record from the piles of verse-verse-verse-verse-verse-verse-verse-chorus-verseverse-chorus you hear every Monday & Wednesday night, and they're the only two things that matter in folk anyway: constantly interesting Iyrics and singing that proves he means it. And oh man, this is the wordiest record this side of, like, the Beastie Boys. He name-drops stoopit crazy throughout (Franz Liszt, Roberta Flack, Eli Wallach, Tom Petty, Hunter S. Thompson, Don Pardo, Clyde Beatty, & Andrea Dworkin just for starters, and that doesn't count "Amy & Ani," which is his basic Antifolk all-star name check wet dream, but don't tell anyone, okay?) (And is "Amy" Amy Grant? Then I've had that same dream. Coool).

Every song (and there are tons of them, 18 in all, most of em fairly long - he barely leaves enough room for a hidden track, and more on that later) has a couple of turns of phrase that make you think or laugh or nod knowingly or something. He'd be required listening for just his rhyming (he rhymes the supposedly unrhymeable Oranger with Karen Carpenter, sharpens her, harbinger, car insured, isn't sure and prisoner, and it's even almost grammatically sound!), and even if his spelling is mediocre (he repeatedly spells "Napolean" like it's somekind of ice cream), it don't matter, because this is music to be heard first and then read. And what's more, the points underneath all this wordplay are as cutting as (Anti)folk is supposed to be. In "Unmitigated Freakshow," he takes a series of candid and not terribly flattering snapshots of all the different outcasts that populate your average open mike with a precision that might offend people who see themselves in his words. And the verse about coming to play Arlene's Grocery would turn any self-respecting songwriter off of the place forever.

It wouldn't be an Adam Brodsky album without a generous helping of pottymouth and relationships gone bad. But unlike on Dork, he doesn't lean on chick angst so much these days. "Blow Me" features a gentle fuck-you for the guy who took his girlfriend ("I'd tell you to blow me, blow me then spit / but in a roundabout way, you already did"), while "Napolean's Watergate" [sic] is as close to a straight dis of an ex-girlfriend as he gets (your tits may make me look your way / but even your blowjobs couldn't get me to stay").

But for the most part, he's singing from the heart more than the groin. Even on "Sex With You," he spends the whole song marveling at how cool this woman is, and how can someone this amazing still want to do the nasty with him.

He's really put an effort into injecting some happiness into this record. He even admits how hard it was: in "The First Days Of Love", he ends with "I've got 200 songs about how this love died / but that's not the purpose of this diatribe ... those first few nights her / brain's like Albert Schweitzer," followed by rhyming first, worst, submersed, thirst, nurse and rehearse and signing off.

There's so many songs like that. I could fulfill my space obligation for this piece by just quoting all the lines I love on this record ("Connie Chung and Elephant Dung / don't make much of a combo platter"! - "This lady left me for the lady in the previous verse"!), but I haven't even gotten to what the damned thing sounds like. For those of you (like the editor of this fine rag) who prefer their Antifolk uncut, without serious instrumentation, you're gonna love this album. No Choochtown or A Single Angry Word here - most of the songs are Adam beating away at his acoustic, sounding largely live off the floor. There are a couple of band type songs (including a cameo solo by Mr. Ed Hamell himself), but even those sound real straightforward, giving the words lots of room to be heard. His voice is real steady, strong and clear and in-tune, with lots of depth-of-feeling - you know, soul. Even when he's screaming his head off (which is often), he goes on out there emotionally and then composes himself and lays the song down gently like a great beauty he's about to ravish. And after the could-be-written-for-Lach "You And My Career" and the 10-verse closer "Kicked In The Butt By Love," there's a 3-minute pause (real short compared to DORK but the CD is absolutely full of Adam's wordplay) followed by "New York," labelmate Butch Ross' cautionary tale for anyone who might want to move to New York to be a songwriter ("And I'll come out of that tunnel, just like Bob Dylan did before me / so I can go up to the Gaslight and Jack Hardy can ignore me").

And I know the ambitious motherfucker is going to look for some pull quotes, so I'll say stuff I swear I would have said anyway if it had fit anywhere else in this review.

Adam Brodskys Folk Remedy raises the bar on what an Antifolk album should be. Every song is funny and catchy and angry and even sexy, even. Every acoustic songwriter working in this millennium could learn something from this record, and it should be in every Antifolk medicine cabinet, right beside the Tylenol, Band-Aids, fifth of cheap gin and the obligatory copies of Ulysses and Edward Penishands. And if you laugh at the liner notes (and you should), get on his mailing list at The only problems with this record? The drums sound muffled. Oh, and the cover says "guaranteed to offend," and I wasn't, so I want my money back.

by Tony Hightower

updated: 17 years ago