A few years ago, genre-bending Anticon rapper WHY? (Yoni Wolf) morphed his skewed hip-hop stylings into equally skewed indie rock. WHY?’s first CD as a band, “Elephant Eyelash” (2005), was a spotty affair, but the group’s newest release “Alopecia” finds the trio (augmented on the record by members of out-there rock band Fog) living up to the promise only hinted at previously.
WHY?’s early work, as well as Wolf’s side projects – including deconstructionist rap group cLOUDDEAD and Hymie’s Basement (his collaboration with Fog’s Andrew Broder) — tended to over-indulge in pretentious sounds that weren’t usually very user-friendly. On “Alopecia,” Wolf and his crew have stripped away some of the pretensions while simultaneously carving out their own niche in the realm of eclectic, kitchen-sink, post-everything rock.
With his nasally, sing-song voice and frequent spoken-word digressions, Wolf spins strange, hallucinatory lyrics over shuffled beats, thumping bass lines, spazzy guitar licks and odd time signatures, all of which result in a deliciously messy sonic collage that defies categorization.
The irresistibly feel-good music and subversive lyrics of “Fatalist Palmistry” (“Your cat clawed out my eyes while I was distracted by your smile”) would make the song a hit single in some parallel universe.
The stuttering, nervous quality of lead single “The Hollows” stands on equal footing with Gnarls Barkley’s creative genre-smashing, only significantly darker.