Album reviews

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Why? AlopeciaReview Snapshot: A mix-up of genres and emotions, where bright melodies sit beside bleak lyrics- and why not? The third album from this Cincinatti band is difficult but ultimately worthwhile listening. Diverse, ambitious and brilliant.

The CLUAS Verdict? 9 out of 10

Full review:

Why? are a band devoid of a genre. Call it alternative, rap or even hip-pop, but either way Jonathan “Yoni” Wolf and his band of not-so-merry men have created an infusion that’s as engaging as it is difficult to listen to.

'Alopecia' is the band’s third venture (the second as a four-piece) and although the basic formula doesn’t vary much from their previous albums (‘Oaklandzulasylum’ and ‘Elephant Eyelash’) there’s a very tangible change in tone.  The album really plays in two parts, which have been mixed up at random. On one side you have the melodic, free-flowing pieces that are bright and optimistic; while on the other a sense of regret, anguish and disgust prevails.

From the onset the listener knows what he’s getting himself into; the driving bassline of Mark Erickson behind the sounds of whipped chains in the opening track ‘The Vowels Pt II’  lets us know, all too unsubtly, that we’re not in for an easy ride.  And from there starts Wolf’s winding verses and melodies; creating the most fantastic and disturbing images that can take on so many meaning’s it’s virtually impossible to nail one down.

One thing does seem clear in this album though - Yoni is getting older, wiser, and more conscious of his place in the world. Working harder to maintain his reputation as younger blood tries to take his place: ‘Faking suicide for applause; in the food courts the malls; and cursing racing horses on church steps’.

The second song, ‘Good Friday’, displays the other side to the album. A seedy, gritty, slightly disturbing chapter that is initially painfully difficult to sit through, but with time creates a contrast that’s absolutely essential for the album, and the concept of what ‘Why?’  actually do. ‘These Few Presidents’ plays as one, if not the most melodic tune on the disc, and contains another gem of Wolf’s lyrics: ‘Even though I haven’t seen you in years; yours is a funeral I’d fly to from anywhere’. 'The Hollows' shows no respect or remorse, with lines one can only presume to portray the homo- and xenophobic nature of those caught up in an unfamiliarly liberal society ‘In Berlin I saw two men fuck in the dark corner of a basketball court/I thought I’d go back to get my money but…oh no, those gypsies probably got knives’

The images come thick and fast in ‘Song of the Sad Assasin’, which starts about as morbidly as any song I’ve ever heard, while ‘Gnashville’ also haunts us, hinting at someone’s last moments before death: ‘And when they come calling, I won’t go calm; there is no palm or divine mitt’.

‘Fatalist Paramilitary’ is most definitely the cheeriest song of the lot. After six songs we finally hear a truly positive attitude. It may be naïve to assume it’s due to new love, though the line ‘Your cat clawed out my eyes while I was distracted by your smile’ is a clear sign of Yoni’s contorted image of optimism and happiness.  Whether ‘The Fall of Mr. Fifths’, the next track on the album, is a reference to the one that came previous we don’t know; but after hearing‘If I remain lost and die on the cross; at least I wasn’t born in a manger’ might show Wolf’s frustration at his own relationship breaking down when comparing it to that of his parents.

‘Brook & Waxing’ and ‘A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under’ are two more rhythmical raps strung out in front of a tuneful background, while ‘Twenty-Eight’ proves as a useful distraction from the usual bombardment of words.  'Simeon’s Dilemma' once again shows Wolf’s fearlessness of writing on the taboo. Opening with the lines ‘Stalker’s my whole style; and if I get caught I’ll deny’ for once it seems he’s feeding us exactly what he wants us to think about the song. ‘Are you giving me a dirty look in the rear view mirror?...On my fixie with the chopped horns turned in; Trailing behind your biodiesel Benz’; it’s plain for us to see that he refuses to let this go.

'Torpedo or Crohn’s' is the last true rap song on the record, and the repetitive piano line easily finds its way into one’s brain as the lyrics skim across our conscious. It’s another tale of woe and downright vile images: ‘Today after lunch I got sick and blew chunks; all over my new shoes in a lot behind whole foods…As a kid I did not shit my pants much but why start now with this stuff? And man I do not bluff’. He’s most certainly an artist not afraid of confiding things one wouldn’t want the public to hear, nay details we the public we don’t even want to know ‘The kinda shit I won’t admit to my head shrinker’ (‘Good Friday’). It’s this complete honesty though that endears us to him even more and makes us appreciate the anguish and toil that came in forming these songs.

What really makes this album though is the brilliant production. For a four-piece band to be able to create a record that’s so diverse and rich is a true testament to these Cincinnatians, whether they are rockers, rappers, or hip-poppers.

Cluas Verdict: 9/10

Kevin Galvin

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