Sunday, June 26, 2005

Why? / Sanddollars, The EP / Rating 6.6

In the mid 90’s two separate artists in two totally different parts of the country really captured my attention.

I was at a hardcore show in N.J. watching the usual screamo back turned to the audience kind performance when curiously one lone kid with glasses started to set up a drum machine and microphone. Adam Goren AKA Atom and his Package played for the crowd the sort of set one would expect to get their ass kicked for daring to perform in front an all ages rented hall crowd. His lyrics too clever for his own good took the ubsurd pop intelligence of They Might Be Giants and managed to win over most of the high-water pants and backpack wearing audience. I couldn’t have imagined comedy whined over synth hooks and simple Yamaha drum beats working but it was like listening to a young David Cross trying to sing and damn it he was really likable. It was one of Atom’s first shows and while it was clumsy you could tell he was onto something good. Maybe not for everyone kind of good but none the less he was onto something new.

A few thousand miles to the left Sam Jayne was in-between bands. The Olympia / Seattle band Lync had broken up and his solo cassette only project called Love as Laughter was about as underground and unknown as it could get. Just a few years before Beck’s hit song “Loser” introduced the mainstream to indie rock’s version of hip-hop and as Beck extended his repertoire to include his version of the blues, Sam Jayne was included among several other Northwest guest stars on “One Foot in the Grave”. This snowball affect of mix and match styles had taken root in Sam Jayne’s songwriting and out came two tapes of some of the craziest most unique sounding home spun records around. His trademark nasal vocal straining remained but replacing a full band was a drum machine and the kind of experimental instrumentation few kids attached the blooming Sunny Day Real Estate scene were capable or willing to make. Love as Laughter has matured into an utterly different monster almost a decade later but his early 4track material easily still fits under the same family tree Anticon has built over the past several years.

(I swear I am going somewhere with my walks down memory lane…promise.)

The first time I heard Why? All I could do was think back to these two separate time periods in my life and connect the dots to the now like a cartoon map filled with dashes between the past and present. Forgive me but I don’t associate Yoni Wolf to hip-hop at all. My ears settle into the comfortable feeling I get when I still play “Don’t Let Start” by They Might be Giants. Lyrically I can understand why hip-hop fans would be a fan of Why? but if anything I feel like his talents deserved to be heard by a much wider audience. The same people who embraced that scrawny white guy singing “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me” or didn’t cringe at the thought of listening to an entire Beat Happening record.

I love the “Sanddollars” Ep because of all the above reasons and for his mention of the Danielson Family. There is nothing “safe” about his lyrics and if having a strong melodies and song structures to back them up makes it less appealing to his usual fan club then good. Why? deserves better.