Why?
Alopecia


4.0
excellent

Review

by Lewis P. STAFF
February 23rd, 2008 | 71 replies | 21,960 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

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. For a while, this made sense; with tracks like “Good Friday” detailing the alienated, drugged up youth that I myself have been surrounded by since I became a teenager, Wolf seemed to dare the very same kids to latch onto his slow, methodical ramblings full of puns, erratic rhyme schemes and understated use of product placements. More so than most artists, Wolf hit a nerve for me, and though I felt speculated on, almost condescended to, Wolf created a universe I didn’t only understand, but lived in. It wasn’t just an emotional investment; I practically set up camp.

But as I listen to the guitar chords and the tinny boom in “Good Friday” again for the 58th time (that’s not including any number of car drives around town), the song climaxing into a wall of hollow white noise that ends, suddenly, with the opening beat of “These Few Presidents,” I know that Alopecia’s commentary (social, too!) couldn’t come from anyone but an inside source. More so than that, Alopecia becomes a dense, unnerving experience because of its inability to treat any of Wolf’s issues with a condescending simplicity. Tracks bind themselves in reverb, turn inwards onto themselves, and each become their own, separate entities strung along by an impressive sense of integration. Way back in February, I approached Alopecia with an interest in its musical structure with a fleeting pursuit of its subject matter, but the strength to Alopecia is the way both sides of these drowning presidents interact with each other.

As Wolf’s third release under Why? (their second as a full-band), Alopecia takes on the duty of fleshing out the arc of progression with a noticeable flourish. It’s the corner where Oaklandazulasylum and Elephant Eyelash meet, full of Yoni’s signature (what anticon’s website describes as) candytime-dissonant, singsong-suicide style. That begins as soon as the spacious “The Vowels Pt. 2” starts to spark, the rattle of its percussion sulking along with the tight, built-upon bass line. The song stands, appropriately enough, as largely impersonal, though Wolf’s thesis statement seems obvious enough: “I wish all my pitfalls could be caught by this call,” followed closely by a lamented greeting and its sly suffix. The defining moment is in the song’s slow, dramatic unraveling into the lyrical exercise, “Good Friday,” Wolf’s voice a mix of apathetic acceptance and a simmer of hostility.

The possibilities behind Wolf’s deadpan delivery is endless (how many ways can one read, “Jerking off in an art museum john till my dick hurts”?), but the beauty (not only in “Good Friday” but Alopecia) is in recognizing childhood staples along with him, from the casual Silver Jew namedropping to a jab at Whole Foods right down to off-handed quips about boxes of Cracker Jack. When the locomotive piano rush of “Songs of the Sad Assassin” becomes warped and chaotic, Wolf’s refrain is odd but personal (“I feel like a loop of the last eight frames of film / before a slow-motion Lee Harvey Oswald gets shot in the gut and killed’), standing alone “putting three coins into a washing machine” (reportedly a response to the dismantlement of cLOUDDEAD, but let’s not jump to conclusions). Moments make Alopecia, like the whimsical charm in “These Few Presidents” when he states, “Even though I haven’t seen you in years, yours is a funeral I’d fly to from anywhere.”

Still, this late in the summer, I get gushy talking about how I interpret different elements of Alopecia. In the soft, diluted whistle and the Wolf's sharp flow that guides “Gnashville,” pasted over the erratic, stacked percussion, the second verse’s back and forth delivery is so quick it’s barely noticeable, but the edge to the snide remarks suggests a deeper connotation. “Fatalist Palmistry” is a rather simple indie-rock tune, an upbeat number that counterbalances the lyrical imagery: “I sleep on my back because it’s good for the spine / and coffin rehearsal.” Even the tight bass in "The Hollows" gains a considerable edge to it, pulling into the marching drum verse where Yoni proclaims, "In Berlin I saw two men fuck / in the dark corner of a basketball court." The stalker in “Simeon’s Dilemma” is so genuine amongst the rainfall of pianos and rising drum rolls that its mockery of ballads barely registers. Even when the song hits its dream-pop turning point (“Are you a female young messiah?"), his actions can be redeemed by his regretful final sigh, "You're mostly what I think about."

There’s the key to Alopecia’s success, I suppose. Their ability to take Yoni’s self-indulgent moments (“By Torpedo or Crohn’s”), and moments of self-clarity (“Good Friday”), exaggerated slice-of-life moments and build something realistic and, most of all, intelligent. There will be people that like Alopecia more than might seem appropriate, myself included, but those people might as well have written “Good Friday” themselves.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Kiran
Emeritus
February 23rd 2008



6001 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album cover is odd.

Listening to their album stream on myspace. The Vowels Pt. 2 is an excellent track. This Message Edited On 02.23.08

Digging: Spoon - They Want My Soul

Altmer
February 23rd 2008



5652 Comments


I've had people recommend me this.

pixiesfanyo
February 23rd 2008



1222 Comments


album S U C K S

plane
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2008



6092 Comments


how did I know you heard this and would also hate it

pixiesfanyo
February 23rd 2008



1222 Comments


'cos i dig on clouddead and subtle.

sgrevs
February 23rd 2008



698 Comments


This sounds like something I will like and I will get it.

The Jungler
February 23rd 2008



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

zach savage quotes are my bag, dude
great review. cLOUDDEAD is really tight, but I'm not all that interested in listening to this. maybe i'll listen at the end of the year when i go on an 'albums of 08' frenzy, but who knows.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2008



16083 Comments


The thing I dislike about Why? is that he reuses a lot of the same exact vocal melodies and rhyme schemes throughout all of his projects.

plane
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2008



6092 Comments


I obviously wouldn't know that so it's not really a big deal, and probably wouldn't be even if I did. It's more of an emotional attachment to the whole thing than anything, even though I do think it rules (even if I can already tell it's gonna get hate for being so obv gay).
[quote=Jungler]zach savage quotes are my bag, dude[/quote]
[quote=review]-Lew ft. Zach[/quote]

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2008



16083 Comments


The song I listened to from this was great but there was a verse that was like directly lifted from a cLOUDDEAD song.

plane
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2008



6092 Comments


Which ones and which one?

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2008



16083 Comments


I dont remember the song, its whatever pitchfork posted near the end of november/december. I'll try and find the cLOUDDEAD part tho.

iarescientists
February 23rd 2008



5863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ATTN: MORRISSEY

I'm ready to become a staff collaboratorThis Message Edited On 02.23.08

Jom
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2008



2656 Comments


You need to write more of your own shi[font=verdana]t[/font] instead of riding on the coattails of others!

iarescientists
February 23rd 2008



5863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thwarted once again!

plane
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2008



6092 Comments


my fear of the bear at showbiz pizza when i was six was overwhelming and not dissimilar to this

natey
March 3rd 2008



4170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like this a bunch.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
March 11th 2008



3765 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Mmm, such a good record.

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

Zebra
Moderator
March 16th 2008



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This is fun and everything but I just can't see myself listening to it very often. "The Hollows" is a really cool track though.

natey
March 16th 2008



4170 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Simeon's Dilemma is awesome.



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