While that album remains an absolute pleasure it did signal a slight detour from the sound we had associated with the Californian 3 piece right from their debut. WHY? have definitely not sacrificed their new found pop sensibilities yet ‘Mumps, Etc‘ displays enough bite to be considered a kindred spirit to their 2008 breakout album ‘Alopecia‘.
Thom included them in his top-10 explaining “Sometimes words can carry a track on their own and Yoni Wolf‘s lyrics are the sociological poetry of every thoughtful and intelligent down and out. But this record obviously isn’t a poetry reading and WHY?‘s musicianship on ‘Mumps, Etc.‘ is still as exciting, genre-twisting and gritty as their diamond in the rough debut ‘Oaklandazulasylum‘ way back in 2003“.
WHY? are an exultation of larks being shot down with a shotgun. Beautiful melodies, being trounced upon with irresistable beats and soulful yet dirty words.
WHY? are a band that I think it is impossible to be bored with. Possibly one of the most underrated bands out there. A curious mix of analogue and electronic instruments mixed with punchy and catchy bass parts and of course frontman Yoni Wolf‘s inspired, confessional and sociological genius.
‘Mumps, Etc.‘ is the follow up to 2009’s excellent ‘Eskimo Snow‘. It fuses the best bits from that album’s folk inspired rap and the grit and darkness from the band’s previous gem album ‘Alopecia‘. Potentially this is the three piece’s most self aware and confessional album with Wolf taking on everything from the misfortune of being thirty plus, being in a touring band and male pattern balding (you read that right)
tracks such as “Paper Hearts“, “Waterlines” and “Bitter Thoughts” convey how extremely accomplished the band are as musicians writing inspired classical, folk and world music pieces that are accompanied by slow or upbeat pop rhythms that they have reigned in so well, you wondered how this was unique blend was never really thought of before.
I would go as far as to say that the song “Sod In The Seed” has the greatest and most challenging, thought provoking lyrics of any other WHY? song and covers more ground than most other band’s songs do anyway. The wordplay has become so busy in time signature and tight in delivery, lines like “Who am I to judge a mans heart by his yacht wear?” prove Yoni‘s observant and thoughtful style but blast out like a smack in the face to sober you up from your useless daydreaming.
“Strawberries” starts like a 1950’s doo-wop song but comes to life in a way that only indie cacophony that is a WHY? song can with swooping xylophone melodies and anthemic lo-fi drum and bass parts and anti-rock star sentiment. Yet again thought it is the lyrics that shine through as utterly original and sound like they would look as beautiful in a bound book – “Itching like an intern with a sunburn, for what a stone unturned covers, I don’t wear rubbers and I don’t werar sunscreen,I want to heat my hide not hide under something“.
I’ll leave you with the line that I couldn’t decipher but sounds just a good without knowing: “From the backs of tent flyers in pen, the guilt-racked liar pretends to confess.”