Why? – Crushed Bones
I first came across Why? through his involvement in Californian surrealist hip-hop group cLOUDDEAD. Of cLOUDDEAD I am sure I will say much more in the future. A collaboration of Why?, Doseone and DJ Odd Nosdam, they are possibly one of the best bands.
cLOUDDEAD was born from the avant-garde hip-hop label/collective Anticon, whose roster I am determined to slowly work through, even though they are sometimes, well, totally whack. Metal wasn’t made for me. cLOUDDEAD see themselves as hip-hop, but few accept them into the fold, and for good reason. They have feet deep in indie rock, and have been accused of being merely ‘smartass surrealism’. They are something, though, and it is something good.
Anyway, I can find it difficult to listen to Why? without the supporting nasal lyrical wizardry of Doseone and Odd Nosdam’s confident disc-work. It’s like sitting on a stool with only one leg. Still, a really awesome stool. Why?’s work is beautiful and powerful much of the time.
Why? (real name Yoni Wolf, which sounds like a stage name in itself) displays much less true hip-hop influence than any of his Anticon labelmates, but his lyrics are steeped in spoken word poetry, deep in abstraction. The songs themselves often paint blurred pictures of laced images rather than actually pursuing narratives or clearly conveying messages. The word ‘stanza’ means room, and these songs are spaces to inhabit. They revel in and make nonsense of language.
I swear the riders on the tube tie razors to their elbows
The riders on the tube keep call cold coal in their billfolds
The riders on the tube will hide cocaine in their shell-toes
And yes yes yes, man, they’ll novacaine the hello
Give me more. This is not to say that Why? always gets it right. He could be accused of sometimes trying too hard, and when this happens his work can be twee and affected. It’s always sad to see. Still, for the mostpart this is work on the edge, using the sounds of blenders or chains to make music, sampling phone conversations, movies and thrift store records.
The product is delightfully lo-fi, textured the way a piece of wood is textured. At points, the lyrics border on genius, such as in ‘The Fall of Mr. Fifths‘ on Alopecia (2008), where the ‘ss’ sound is patterned throughout the lyrics to amazing effect:
I’m unavoidable like death this christmas;
is this twisted? Why be upset(?)
I never said I didn’t have syphillis miss listless,
hard like the bricks I pound my fists with.
This is some serious shit. It gets me every time. ‘Crushed Bones’ is one of Why?’s best songs, though by no means by a long way. Listen until you know all the words, then go listen to the rest.