Why?'s sound is what the General Unclassifiable tag on your MP3 database was made for. Just when you decide that Alopecia — which takes its name from the medical term for hair loss — is basically an underground hip-hop record, it becomes indie rock. Just as you're putting it in an experimental post-rock box, it pops right out with a burst of dreamy psychedelic pop. Lead single "The Hollows," for example, could be any one of contemporary alt-pop's many moments of '80s new wave revival. Except that neither Interpol nor the Killers conjure imagery like, "In Berlin I saw/ Two men fuck in a dark corner of a basketball court/ Just a slight jingle of pocket change/ Pulsing."
The core trio of Yoni Wolf, his drummer/brother Josiah and multi-instrumentalist Doug McDiarmid are here augmented by Fog members Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson. If you're a fan of Yoni's former band, cLOUDDEAD, you'll already be expecting the fourth Why? album to be a gnomic and druggy treat for arty guys with goatees and backpacks. What you might not be expecting is an album full of great pop tunes. Tribal drums, catchy whistling and romantic pianos adorn "Gnashville," while "Fatalist Palmistry" embraces every lovable classic rock cliché — chiming Byrds guitars, lovelorn ambience, rousing chorus — to infectious effect.
Wolf's wise-ass nasal whine isn't a pretty instrument in itself, so McDiarmid's virtuosity is vital to Alopecia, always keeping melody and harmony to the fore. "By Torpedo or "Crohn's" sums up Why?'s appeal, twinning a Serge Gainsbourg-influenced seduction soundtrack with lyrics full of shit and vomit… that also happen to be poetic enough to prove that Wolf possesses old-fashioned hip-hop rhyme skills. "This is a new kind of blues," he declares, convincingly. Alopecia sees Why? baldly go where no band has gone before.