Lying is pretty much de rigueur in rock & roll: Robert Zimmerman, the bourgeois Jew from Minnesota, transformed himself into hobo/poet/Guthrie acolyte Bob Dylan and told gullible scribes that he used to travel with a circus. Bruce Springsteen didn't spring all grimy-like from New Jersey's working-class; the White Stripes' Jack and Meg White aren't actually siblings. So we salute the Living Things, whose DreamWorks press kit contains about as many lies as your average George W. Bush speech. Granted, lying about your name and origins is considerably more benign than calling the unprovoked invasion of Iraq "Operation Iraqi Freedom," but it's risky business, particularly in your hometown, where everyone, from guitar-store salesclerks to local bands that shared bills with you, is dying to expose you as a poseur.
After last week's column ran, several conscientious readers took the time to demystify the Living Things' official bio, which Radar Station naïvely swallowed hook, line and sinker. First of all, the guys are all brothers, but their real names aren't Lillian, Eve and Bosh Berlin. Yeah, yeah: You'd think we'd have been suspicious from the get-go, but we happen to know a woman whose parent-bestowed name is Blueberry Morningsnow McGregor, so we're predisposed to believe hippies are capable of anything. We did a little digging and learned that Lillian Berlin's real name is Jason Rothman; we couldn't track down his brothers' names, but we're guessing they're equally mundane.
More dirt: They used to play in a Hansonesque pop/rock outfit called the Skoobies, whose career highlight was a side-stage slot at Pointfest. In the hopes of convincing people that they hailed from glamorous elsewhere, they recently pretended (at a gig at Sally T.'s, no less!) that they didn't know what Schnucks was. A guy who used to sell them guitar gear a couple of years ago sent us an entertaining screed that should obviously be taken with a grain of salt (this guy's in a band, too, one that's not enjoying the champagne-wishes/caviar-dreams lifestyle conferred by a major-label deal), but we'll quote from it anyway, because it's hilarious, and besides, we already perpetuated a bunch of lies last week. Writes the former music-store dude: "They used to show up at, like, noon on a Tuesday dressed like a gang of Robert Smiths preparing for a rocket-ship ride to Mars. All of the rock-star posturing really broke down into sublime hilarity when they had to argue with their mom about spending too much money on some expensive guitar-effects pedal. I see now that they appear to have jumped on the whole Strokes/Hives/Vines/Stooges ripoff bandwagon and scored themselves a sweet record deal and some industry buzz. The only holdover from their goth/glam-rock days appears to be the grandmotherly stage names.... Normally I would pay such a bunch of bitin'-ass fakers no mind, but the fact that you seem to have taken them and their railing against 'insincere bullshit' seriously totally riled me! They're huge fakers, unapologetic style-bitin' bandwagoners and insincere bullshit propagators of the highest degree! I can't dig on that at all and felt it my duty to out them."
A former bandmate of Lillian's is more forgiving. "He really is totally eccentric," explains the source, who preferred not to be identified. "I think he honestly believes his name really is Lillian, the whole persona, and in his mind he's probably not embellishing much."
Let this be a lesson to the Living Things: The main hazard of making shit up is that eventually you'll get called on it, and you'll end up looking very silly indeed. More important, if you lie about being named after your grandma, people will naturally wonder whether you're also lying about the reason you got booed at South by Southwest. Of course, you'll also get more publicity ... d'oh! Looks like Radar Station got played again.
War is upon us, and musicians ranging from the Beastie Boys to Darryl Worley are cashing in, expressing themselves or both. So far, Radar Station has received exactly one such song, a spooky/ambient improvisational recording by local noisenik Glenn Burleigh that we wouldn't have recognized as an anti-war song without the accompanying written explanation. Here's your challenge, local bands: Write a war song (pro or anti) and send it to the RFT, attention "Radar Station War Contest," by May 2. The lucky winner gets an expert assessment in Radar Station. Be forewarned that points will be deducted for any use, ironic or sincere, of the phrases "no blood for oil," "support our troops" or anything else that has appeared or conceivably might end up on a bumper sticker.