2. Why? – Alopecia
What is this album about? That’s the question that has kept me coming back to this album, something that I never thought I would like so much even when I heard it first in the shadow of a newly-wrought appreciation for oaklandazulasylum and Elephant Eyelash. On every listen, a new line stands out and seems to colour the whole differently, but then on closer inspection it all disappears, like some imagined structure in the clouds of the cover.
It’s impossible to pin down, or I find it impossible anyway. There’s so much to it. For one thing, death is unavoidable on Alopecia, no matter where you look. The first line: “I’m not a ladies man, I’m a landmine, filming my own fake death”. On ‘Fatalist Palmistry’, he sleeps on his back “because it’s good for the spine (and coffin rehearsal)”. On ‘The Song of the Sad Assassin’, Yoni and the perpetual female “you” find a dead body floating in water, and wrap its wound anyway.
So that’s the first step. It’s about death. But that’s just a black background to paint on. All human existence is about death. There are layers still to unwrap. The other universal which is omnipresent on Alopecia is sex, as seen inside the head of Yoni Wolf. Everyone’s normal is someone else’s perverted, but some of the lyrics challenge by most standards. “I’ll suck the marrow out and rape your hollow bones, Yoni”. “I never said I didn’t have syphilis, Miss Listless”. “Stalker’s my whole style, and if I get caught, I’ll deny.”
Now sex and death are universal, and obviously they’ve been done to death [ugh] but when they’re unearthed in such a bizarre and obsessive manner, it’s hard not to see things differently. Need more ingredients? Try Christian imagery. Son of a rabbi, talking about a past or future girlfriend as the “female young messiah”, “what the church-folk mean by the good news” on ‘Simeon’s Dilemma’. It gets thicker than that, though. Perhaps aware of the trade-off sometimes known as ‘selling out’, or perhaps for some other unknowable reason, the martyr references are nothing short of messianic. “If I get lost, or die on a cross, at least I wasn’t born in a manger.” “Does the cock crow thrice until someone is denied?”
I’m not going to get any further with that sort of approach, I doubt. New parts will reveal themselves, but there’ll never be a whole. That’s the thing about lyrics like this. To twist the meaning of what one of the ghostly fathers said about language, it has both a social and an individual aspect. Social is what we can get.
It’s the sex, the death, the weirdly incongruous religious imagery. But individual is what we miss, and what we can never know. When you write a diary, you write, first and last, to yourself. And that’s what Why? is. That’s why it’ll never be see-through. It might not even be see-through to Yoni. It really is something literary though, and it makes me a little sad to think back to those fist-pumping fans singing back to him about raping his hollow bones at Andrew’s Lane. If you say it yourself, maybe it’s a personal sort poetry. If someone else says it to you… isn’t it a threat?