WHY? - Mumps, etc

WHY? - Mumps, etc
Album Reviews

Wolf’s malaise is the key theme of the album.

Label: City Slang
Released: 8th October 2012
Reviewer: Martyn Young
Yoni Wolf is a sick man. WHY?’s founder and focal point describes his various ailments both physical and emotional in forensic and, at times, unsettling detail through the Californian act's fifth album, the perfectly titled ‘Mumps, etc’

‘Mumps, etc’ is very much a confessional album, though as is his wont, Wolf wraps these confessional lyrics in a number of cryptic rhymes and insanely detailed wordplay. It makes for an album that offers an almost endless myriad of treats as you attempt to decipher the lyrical threads and make some sense of his troubled mind. Perhaps the most apposite lyric to describe the album is found on the maudlin lament of ‘Bitter Thoughts’ as Wolf raps, “Keep your producer guessing when you’re in the booth confessing. And say it was mostly fiction if they ever come to get you.”

‘Mumps, etc’ features a notable return to hip-hop that has been absent from the group's last few albums, and the dense storytelling approach of the songs offers a perfect example for Wolf's return to rap. The instrumentation is mostly understated and there simply to complement the lyrics and excellent melodies. And when Wolf does attempt to sing it is with a naïve charm: ‘Strawberries’ is a particularly lovely example with its rolling melody slightly reminiscent of that old standard ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’. Wolf’s nasal croon gives it a slightly queasy quality exemplified by the key hook of “I am not OK, boys”.

Wolf’s malaise is the key theme of the album. Whether it is reflecting on his own public persona as the self proclaimed “Doctor of ramble and word scramble” on ‘Waterlines’ or ruminating in intense detail about the modern day music industry on ‘Sod In The Seed’ with its reference to, “a hundred bucks worth of wordy bloggers thugs”, the inner workings of his mind are deeply compelling.

As the album progresses, darker themes of death are introduced culminating in the closing track 'As A Card'. The key lyric is Wolf’s proclamation that, “I’ll hold my own death as a card in the deck, to be played when there are no other cards left.”

‘Mumps, etc’ is a certainly an album that pushes lyrical boundaries and attempts to challenge and, perhaps intentionally disturb the listener. However, amidst all the reflections on illness etc there is a real hope and belief in humanity that underpins almost everything here. Also, very importantly, the lyrics can be uproariously funny. Wolf has a peerless way with dark humour, a perusal of the lyric sheet is a must.

WHY? have always been an acquired taste but anyone with a shred of interest in Yoni Wolf’s idiosyncratic talents will find much to savour on a very impressive return.
Rating: 8/10
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