A six-track tour of WHY?’s wicked, warped and wonderful world.
James Skinner 2012
“I make decent cash, I’m a minor star,” quips WHY? frontman Yoni Wolf near the start of Sod in the Seed’s title track; “and we can’t last if she don’t drive a hybrid car.” The song’s a treat, a metronomic groove over which intricate wordplay and a perfect chorus are delivered; and though it quickly spins into Wolf’s own dark night of the soul, it’s immediately more inviting than much of WHY?’s recent material.
Wolf hasn’t totally lightened up here, but this EP does have something of the triumphant about it; 2009’s Eskimo Snow felt a little worn out in places, but here the band revels in sunny, addictive instrumentation. To wit: For Someone coasts along on softly ringing guitars and pitter-pattering djembe until a blissful synth figure carves it open, Probable Cause is all Hawaiian backing and swooping female choirs, and The Plan is supremely loose.
To their credit, WHY? aren’t the easiest band to categorise. Alumni of L.A.’s(largely) hip hop collective Anticon, Wolf’s rhymes are fabulously wordy, elaborate things that he hits with conviction and purpose, ensuring that there is nothing quite like them out there.
Probable Cause finds Wolf and his brother, Josiah (also in the band), reprimanded by a “state trooper guy on the Pennsylvania turnpike,” and its lyrical concerns are as ranging and fascinating as ever. From the “first world curse” dealt with on the title track to the “27 brittle bird bones” and “seven seas of confetti on the breeze” found elsewhere, it is sometimes hard to get a grip on what Wolf is getting at, but that may be his intention: melody and imagery tumble out of these compositions, inviting repeat listening.
Though he reverts to type a little on the darker Shag Carpet (“Heed this honey, even if I beg for relations / You should try to only keep me as a distant acquaintance”), this EP whets the appetite for a new album in a sparkling, confident fashion. And for any listeners yet to bear witness to WHY?’s wicked, warped and wonderful world, it is an ideal place to begin.