Do not fault The Band, The Who or The The for their search engine defying names. When they were at their peak, Google did not exist and they had no idea how crucial Search Engine Optimisation would be for PR organisations of the future. In any case, they managed to achieve a mildly respectable degree of success even in those decades that were denied basic communication technology (such as the Internet) so they’re probably not too fussed about this faux pas.
DO fault Why? however. This 21st century band has no excuse. (to add insult to injury, know that ‘Why?’ is also the name of a British band active in the 1990s that is thus similarly guilty). Frontman Jonathon Wolf – Yoni to his friends… and fans – was born to Messianic Jewish parents. Not www-deprived Buddhist monks as you might assume, as there is no other explanation for this toil-inducing choice of bandname which only increases the workload for researchers, search engine optimisers, wikipedians, et cetera, et cetera.
Though if you ignore the inconvenience of it all, I guess as band names go, it is rather clever.
If you’ve never heard Yoni’s voice before – and you really should have – know that it carries the same disaffected, sightly nasal, intonation as We Are Scientists’ Keith Murray’s, that, in turn, sounds like a cross between Mark ‘E’ Everett with a tinge of Billy Corgan but without the latter’s tendency to turn your eardrums into parmesan.. Okay, the Corgan resemblance might just be me, but I swear I hear it.
The songs on Eskimo Snow were recorded along with the ones on Alopoecia. The newer album is the alt-rocker in contrast to its more hip-hop sibling. That is Why?’s selling point after all – the unexpected amalgam that they are of the two styles of music. Eskimo Snow is loaded with lyrics that flow naturally while being primarily streams of consciousness, thus the perceived resemblance to work by We Are Scientists and Eels.
Yoni comes across as a cleverly observant humourist, and on the deceptively upbeat, yet honestly melancholic ‘Against Me’, he dryly ponders the grim outcome of a life spent primarily in solitude “Will all my unused seed collect like mercury, in some kind of afterlife for halves?” and “will I gain weight in later life and when will someone swing a scythe against me?”’ Having got this far pondering his demise he decides to go all the way “I’d rest in peace on a freshly cleaned and steamed plush carpet for sure in the vacant third floor of a department store.” before throwing in the brilliantly disquieting line “ashamed of sleep, I lie when a phone call wakes me.” And you laugh, because you relate to it just like everybody does and so you see the song is about you.
‘Even The Good Wood Gone’ continues this theme of isolation and inevitable doom, though this time he’s a… suddenly alive museum exhibit? A warrior of days gone by, stripped of uniform and artillery and placed in a glass cage to be observed by not-as-curious-as-they-should be school groups who are repeatedly warned “no flash photography” – which is the “mantra stuck on [his] lips in vain”?
Musically, ‘Into The Shadows of My Embrace’ and ‘One Rose’ are near nursery rhymes. A slight incongruence when dealing with subjects like voyeurism, masturbation and mental disorders that remain undiagnosed “because I messed up and kissed my shrink in a Jersey City hotel room.” ‘This Blackest Purse’ sees Why? going a bit emo, in the contemporary sense of the term. No, what you’ve heard so far wasn’t emo-ness it was more morbidly-detached introspection. Or perhaps it WAS emo-ness, but it just doesn’t compare to lines like: “I’ve only cradled death in my own ending,” and “still sporting my ex-girlfriend’s dead ex-boyfriend’s boxers.” and the slightly more positive reworking of the any good depressive’s mantra “[I wanna] no longer be ashamed and hide my tears in shower water.”
It is impossible to effectively summarise this album. As is evident, the only way it can be adequately described is by quoting large chunks of each song and hoping the subtle, slightly sad witticisms come across in text the way they do in the music. The songs really are more about what is said rather than how it is said and lines are delivered with a wry, self-deprecating smirk that often results in a snicker from the listener.
Why? – not talking about the band, asking a question. Why do you laugh? You laugh because what he says alternates between neurotic and relatable and you find that switch unsettling in how naturally it happens. But honestly, the words here cannot really do justice to the words on the album which act as its built in PR system. Maybe they don’t need Google after all.
WHY? announce massive Fall tour, reveal more Eskimo Snow album details. The tracklisting for the albuw is below as well as the long long list of tour dates. They band will be playing near must of us this Fall.
09/24 Cincinnati, OH Northside Tavern *
09/26 New York, NY Le Poisson Rouge / Wordless Music Series +
10/01 Cambridge, MA Middle East #%
10/02 Philadelphia, PA First Unitarian Church #%
10/03 Pittsburgh, PA Assembly Room, William Pitt Union (www.wptsradio.org) FREE SHOW #%
10/04 Ann Arbor, MI The Blind Pig #%
10/05 Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge #%
10/06 Madison, WI UW Madison Terrace #%
10/07 Minneapolis, MN Triple Rock #%
10/09 Denver, CO Bluebird #%
10/10 Salt Lake City, UT In The Venue #%
10/13 Annacortes, WA Department of Safety &$
10/14 Seattle, WA The Vera Project &$
10/15 Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom &$
10/17 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall *%$
10/20 Los Angeles, CA Echoplex *%
10/23 Phoenix, AZ Modified Arts *%
10/24 Tucson, AZ Club Congress *%
10/26 Denton, TX Hailey’s *%
10/28 Birmingham, AL Bottletree *%
10/29 Asheville, NC Grey Eagle *%
10/30 Carrboro, NC Cat’s Cradle *%
10/31 Atlanta, GA Lenny’s %^@
11/02 Orlando, FL The Social %!
11/03 Gainesville, FL Common Grounds %!
11/04 Tallahassee, FL Club Downunder %!
11/06 Baton Rouge, LA Spanish Moon %~
11/07 Houston, TX Walter’s On Washington %~
11/08 Austin, TX Fun Fun Fun Fest
11/10 Lawrence, KS Jackpot Music Hall %~
11/11 St. Louis, MO Firebird %~
11/13 Bloomington, IN Rhino’s Youth Center ~
* = w/ Serengeti and Polyphonic
# = w/ Dark Dark Dark
% = w/ AU
& = w/ No Kids
$ = w/ Mount Eerie
^ = w/ Jemina Pearl
@ = w/ Islands
! = w/ James Husband
~ = w/ The Moore Brothers
+ = w/ Owen Weaver with Flexible Music
WHY? – Eskimo Snow (Anticon) on Sept. 22
1. These Hands
2. January Twenty Something
3. Against Me
4. Even The Good Wood Gone
5. Into The Shadows of My Embrace
6. One Rose
7. On Rose Walk, Insomniac
8. Berkeley By Hearseback
9. This Blackest Purse
10. Eskimo Snow