Release Date: Mar 11, 2008
Record label: Anticon
Genre(s): Indie, Rap
Review Summary: I am pretty much predisposed to liking this. There were a few months after the release of Alopecia that I felt like the brunt of an elaborate joke. With the vividness that Yoni Wolf, the voice behind Why?, described suburban life, failing relationships and something resembling first loves, his observations seemed too on-the-mark to be anything less than a snide satire on the suburban life Alopecia seemed bred from.
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.
On Alopecia, Why? suckered me in, outright deceived and beguiled me with pretty pianos and compact little hooks. And then Yoni Wolf started whispering in my ear. “If you grew up with white boys/ Who only look at black and Puerto Rican porno/ 'Cause they want something that their dad don’t got / Then you know where you’re at.
Why?'s brilliant last album, Elephant Eyelash, only offered hints of frontman Yoni Wolf's previous involvement with the hip hop / dream pop trio Clouddead. Instead, its shambolic, word-drunk and poignant indie rock sounded like what Pavement would have been if Stephen Malkmus had written hundreds of elaborate metaphors about lost love and suicide. Now guitarist Matt Meldon is gone, and in his absence, the remaining three members of Why? (the name used to refer to Wolf alone, but now it refers to the band - confusing!) have Alopecia, which has a Clouddead quote in its first line ("I'm not a ladies man, I'm a land mine") and continues to sound like a lost Clouddead record much of the time.