Ah 2008.... when we nodded to the sounds of 'Alopecia', the Brudenell Social Club full to bursting with backpacks. All those guys are dads now so it's time to squirrel away bits of the childcare money on a lavish re-treatment of the album featuring a bonus demos LP and Boards of Canada and Dntel remixes. It's the 'star' record, the 'road' record. But 'Elephant Eyelash' is better. Deal with it.
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It's always interesting to see which albums in hindsight are seen as the classics. Alopecia is indeed a great album yet it's predecessor Elephant Eyelash was the one which led me hook line and sinker into Why?'s unique world. That album is more indie rock, more subtle, less. hmmm. brash. Then as now I never quite got on with lines like "blowing kisses at disinterested bitches'....jerking off in an art museum til my dick hurts". I remember thinking..."why so coarse?". But I suppose I was just that bit older than Why?s core audience and looking on the youtube comments there's lots of "this record got me through university" type things. You had to be there I guess and let the album hit you hard at the time it hits you most hard. I remember being stood in the Brudenell Social Club watching the entire place sing back the line "even though I haven't seen you in years yours is a funeral I'd fly to from everywhere" and thinking - it's the damn clunkiest lyric on the album - just too knowing... too cynical.
But that's pop music for you. It needs a dash of the obvious to work and it's piss easy to see why this is a classic. Every track offers a different shade of Why? and it combines his quirkiness with a real commercial bent. I remember hating 'The Hollows' because it sounded so damn 'stadium' but that's why people like it. It's middle eight is just ridiculous and almost seems like a joke yet it's chorus is masterful chant-along emo-rap. For the pleasure of old guys like me, Why? has an amazing ability to suddenly come up with great indie rock. "Fatalist Palmistry" sort of combines Pavement with the Byrds and is the sort of song most bands would kill for and here it is tucked up late in the album.
What 'Alopecia' is is a big bold technicolour stomp with memorable phrases littered throughout and singalong choruses and hooks galore. Those backpacks may seem a bit heavier these days but it still holds true. But no way is it better than 'Elephant Eyelash'.
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