Why? - Mumps, etc. - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Why? - Mumps, etc.

by Al Brown Rating:5 Release Date:2012-10-08

Why?'s stock in trade is a mash-up of magpie-indie and nerd-rap, a combination that can tread close to insufferability. But even cynics like myself are sometimes forced to eat our words when taking into account Jonathan "Yoni" Wolf's lyrical honesty and the thoughfulness of Why?'s better musical arrangements. Having said that, this is Why?'s fourth album, and although it's still impressively earnest, 2008's funny, self-aware Alopecia must seem like a distant memory to their fans.

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' is without doubt the most solipsistic song of the year - seemingly about a bout of mumps that main man Wolf has physically (but not mentally, mmkay?) recovered from. "Yes my swollen nut and neck shrunk/ though subtle I can smell distinctly/ some sick and swollen stink still to this day stays with me", pines Wolf, as if anyone other than an overbearing mother could give a fuck. There's the image of a "white dove on the hood of a two-tonne truck" which I'm sure is really meaningful if you stop to think about it, but I've got better things to do. The leaden beats and flow - which ape Kanye West at his artless, perfunctory nadir - provide no relief.

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'). It's a really good song. And I realise I've criticised Why? for being facile and obvious on the first track and praised them for doing it on the second, but what you've got to understand is that Wolf is white - writing twee, heartstring-pulling indiepop comes a lot more naturally than brutalist rap screeds.

I just realised the lyrics are actually really sad and occasionally objectionable ("I don't wear rubbers and I don't wear sunscreen"), but that makes it even better: The happy-music/sad-lyric combo is usually a winner. (I'm not being facetious, it is good.) 'Kevin's Cancer' is another song that benefits from being more indie than rap, coming across like Eels at their most mellow and empathetic.

The main problem with the album is that most of the tracks are more like 'Jonathan's Hope'; maybe not as relentlessly pessimistic and self-centred, but close, and just as musically unengaging. Neither the monotonic, monorhythmic, myopic rapping nor the sluggish, predictable breakbeats can hold much attention. 'Sod in the Seed', which sounded undistinguished on the EP of the same name, seems like a breath of fresh air amid a morass of identikit tracks here.

Why? lack energy and enthusiasm on this album, which is understandable, perhaps - Wolf sounds generally unhappy and consumed by those early-30s existential thoughts - but it really doesn't make for a great listening experience.

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