WHY? - Sod In The Seed [EP]
A new WHY? record is long overdue – this EP is the first material since 2009's Eskimo Snow. It anticipates an autumn LP release, of which we've known little; but Sod in the Seed might offer something of what we can anticipate.
It begins with frontman Yoni Wolf rapping over a bop-along beat (you can listen to the track on the band's website) all about how he's a minor star; somebody who pours disdain on people who try to "get a glimpse inside the limo" and waxes lyrical about the cost of the ride – "one must pay the frat fee to enjoy the fat-free snacks, strippers, roofies and six-packs" - if you want to pretend to be famous along with him.
It's hard to sympathise, perhaps, with the character that opens and breaths down on parts of this EP. A mildly arrogant, slightly self-loving figure, this title track creates an impression of a person unconcerned with the reach of his fame – even if he is excellently funny, laying down a line that asks people who want to reach him to post on the "Whole Foods bulletin board."
But it's not a voice you'd want to listen to often, maybe. Which is interesting, because with WHY?, people come for the music and stay for the lyrics. Always interesting, a WHY? LP has a shorter timespan musically – although Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia, 2005 and 2008 respectively, produced some of the finest musical moments of recent years – than the long and complicated relationship a listener can have with the rhymes of Yoni Wolf. His originality of view, peppered across the four LPs to date, brings with it some of the most pinpoint, beautiful and original similes, metaphors and comments, and it's what often brings people back.
So for first time listeners, this voice might grate, but for old timers it's disconcerting, too: what happened to lines like "At your house the smell of our still living human bodies and oven gas; you pray to nothing out loud, two first names and an ampersand," from 2008's Alopecia; or the description of London as the place where "the sirens yelp like a dog with its paw stepped on," from the opening track to 2005's Elephant Eyelash?
Blink and you miss it, but they're here. As a standalone EP, Sod in the Seed has a structure which befits the complexity of the lyrical content in earlier WHY? records. Beginning with the narcissistic ranting of the semi-famous, the EP closes with a similar voice, inflected with something sinister and this time more confessional than off-hand, who explains the narrator's technique for getting lyric content; or at least absolving himself of blame for debatable acts – putting "porn in a poem to confess in a tone."
It feels more like the voice we're used to in a WHY? record. But it's the same wry voice that's there in the title track. The rest of the EP – which retains the sentimentality as well as sadness of the other records – seems loomed over by this latest persona. Somehow, the delicate lines, like "these streets are seven seas of confetti in the breeze when dawn comes," from the catchy 'For Someone', get drowned out by the development of this slight sneer.
Has the bubble burst on the themes that made WHY? much loved? The final track of the EP seems to offer the answer: "I use the first person 'cos it sounds more urgent but the truth is I probably knew myself less than you did."
It puts a new spin, really, on WHY?. People have always held sympathy for the tortured narrator that's obsessed with his ex-girlfriend and pins down the world in clever, original and terse rhymes; but with Sod in the Seed, and maybe the LP to follow it, comes the feeling that it might have been an act all along – or that that feeling, given here, is a new act, designed to cover something that is more real; that vulnerability which it expertly covers, present here and before.
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