Thursday, April 03, 2008
Release Date-Mar 11, 2008
Review-Although Why? have often been considered an alternative rap group, and frontman Yoni Wolf a rapper, this is a designation based on their affiliation with avant hip-hop label anticon and the fact that Wolf will alternate his nasally, sung vocals with spoken word pieces, a designation based on the fact that the band is simply rather hard to categorize. Why? are not hip-hop, but they are also much more than indie rock or folk or whatever other genres are thrown at them, staying within those distinctions but also moving forward, looking outward, all while remaining esoterically accessible. This is especially apparent on Alopecia, the band's third full-length, which, while musically resting comfortably in the experimentally-tinged indie rock realm, explores as many other influences as it can touch without ever overextending its reach. It's all wonderfully, awkwardly tied together by Wolf's lyrics — detailed and odd and sometimes all too humanly crude — which find a way to be both extremely intimate and detached, simultaneously. "These Few Presidents" alludes to death, though it's probably about a break-up ("At your house the smell of our still living human bodies and oven gas"), "Simeon's Dilemma" is a warped take on a love song ("But I still hear your name in wedding bells/Will I look better or will I look the same rotting in Hell?), and "Good Friday" manages to discuss sex, the Silver Jews, loneliness, and R. Crumb, while beginning with the lines "If you grew up with white boys who only look at black and Puerto Rican porno/Because they want something their dad don't got, then you know where you're at." Wolf often approaches his words from a hip-hop standpoint, concentrating on internal rhyme and enjambment, but his intonation and delivery are pure indie rock. As is the band, who layer keyboards, guitars, and electric and organic percussion into something simultaneously melodic and distant, tuneful and difficult, songs that you want to sing along to but then have trouble enunciating the hook to "The Hollows," the first single ("This goes out to all my underdone, other-tongued lung-long frontmen/And all us Earth-growths; some planted, some pulled"). But that, in fact, is what makes Alopecia successful: it displays both crypticness and honesty, intellectualism and vulgarity in equal measure, challenging and placating its audience in the same drawn-out, undefined, nasally breath.