Why?, Popular Damage, Josiah Wolf

Steven Morgan 16/03/2010

Rating: 4.5/5

How can this review be anything but glowing with a set that opened with The Hollows leading directly into Rubber Traits? Sure Eskimo Snow is easily the least great Why? album to date, but it's essentially a series of out-takes from the sessions that created the actually essential Alopecia.

The band gave grown in number to five, incorporating the siblings Wolf and, well, Fog. Yoni's in a great mood, and who wouldn't be if you got to take Fog on tour as your backing band?

The band settle, kick into those first menacing notes only to be joined by an instrument free Yoni running in from stage right like the excitable super geek he is. Freed from the need to play any instruments as it was back in the three piece days, Yoni seems to have adopted an excitable aerobics instructor with attitude for his stage persona. Whether high kicking along to a glockenspiel or pumping his arms out whilst jogging on the spot, he still manages to sit on the right side of the line between endearing ridiculousness and cringe inducing ridiculousness. Though with such positivity on display, when they attempt to get through a track like Good Friday with this obvious excitement, it ends up falling a little flat with the discomforting starkly honest lyrics coming across more tongue in cheek instead.

The set itself drew almost entirely from the last three albums with no time for any Oaklandazulasylum tracks, which kind of makes sense as the last three albums are where as Why? the band as opposed a solo Yoni singing of his jealousy for Dose One's prowess with the ladies. As expected, the majority of the songs played come from Eskimo Snow, but in the full band live context, they come across far better than on the album itself. The pairing of These Hands and January Twenty Something delivered with a particularly absorbing potency that doesn't quite engage on the recording.

The gap for the encore is merely moments as the band come back on stage to the poptastic Fatalist Palmistry to get everyone singing along about an Anna and Nathan they know nothing more of than their names. With Yoni announcing there is to be just one more song in the set, you wonder if it's going to be the conspicuously absent This Blackest Purse or Gemini (Birthday Song) that we'll be treated to. Instead it's a completely different, yet very pleasant surprise. Knowing that Andy Broder was present in the touring line-up should have given it away, but as a closing treat, they launch into the exquisite opening track to the only album of their Hymie's Basement project, namely 21st Century Pop Song. It's a brilliant way to end the set with the rapid-fire call and response wordplay on the last verse delivered with pinpoint precision leaving you wanting more.

It's always a sign of a great set where as the backing music rises with the house lights, you just don't want it to end, and this was most definitely one of those nights.