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.”
What the hell?
It’s quickly apparent what has earned Why?, which has already established itself on a couple of LPs leading up to this release, its following: that chameleon’s ability to sound like a traditional pop group before delivering the surrealist sucker-punch.
There’s a lot of sugary stuff going on here, from the “A-E-I-O-U” hook of “The Vowels Pt. 2” to the Byrds-like jangle of “Gnashville.” But even when he’s expressing the most familiar of lyrical sentiments, Wolf keeps his delivery oblique.
“You’re the only proper noun I need,” he gushes on “Simeon’s Dilemma,” perhaps the closest thing this group will ever record to a love song. But he ends the track with the premonition of doubt: “You’re mostly what I think about.”
Elsewhere on the lyrics sheet, it’s all empty suicide threats and morbid musings, ending with the quasi-epitaph “By Torpedo or Crohn’s.”
“I’d be okay, cool as a rail/ If they just let us have health food in hell,” Wolf deadpans, which makes me wonder if the vegan scene has its priorities straight.
Once you get the lay of the land of Alopecia — with its ethereal production, endlessly analyzable wordplay, and moments of supreme pop clarity — it’s a captivating realm to explore.