Keeping it raw

Pub date March 5, 2008
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer


SONIC REDUCER Who took the sex outta my rock ‘n’ roll? You gotta wonder, watching the Virgins — looking all of 12, collectively, and working the style and charisma of boys whose mothers still dress them — who played a Noise Pop show March 1 at Mezzanine. Sure, the New York City combo can write a good song — far better than those by the old-enough-to-know-better Gutter Twins, who were messing with almost two-decades-old, decayed grunge tropes across town at Bimbo’s 365 Club that same night. But they weren’t kidding when it came to picking a name: far be it from the Virgins to be mentally undressed. They looked like they were safely tucked into fresh, clean underwear — no holes bitten through by groupies — much like those other hotties in prep clothing, Vampire Weekend.

Where to find lusty, lascivious pop? Even Mariah Carey is giving brain cells top billing with her upcoming album, E=MC2 (Island). When it comes to the once-squeaky-clean Jacksons, "Don’t go there" Michael tops "Yeah, that’s sexy, sexy, sexy" Janet with his 25-year-old classic Thriller (Sony) — despite the former’s hopes in picking up where Control (A&M, 1986) left off by focusing on the dance floor with her likable, pillow-talking Discipline (Island). Sex? There are no bejeweled nipples in sight — and as for Jacko, the gloves are off and Neverland Ranch has been foreclosed. And the Vampires and Virgins definitely aren’t providing any.

Perhaps it’s time to turn to more wholesome pleasures like, say, jogging. Yoni Wolf of Why? — a self-proclaimed member of the Bronson Pinchot Fan Club, Anticon stalwart, and stealth heart-rate-raiser — will turn you around. "I can tell you right now, if you don’t know the power of endorphins, it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing," raves Wolf, 28, on the line from his Oakland abode. "I’ve never been a jock because I’m not coordinated. But to jog, you just have to move your legs around. You don’t need to catch a ball or hold a ball and get knocked down. I don’t even remember why I started doing this — probably ’cause I got a little gut and I gotta knock this off. Yeah, eat a midnight snack … "

Yep, it’s funny how passion plays out. Why?’s new disc, Alopecia (Anticon), returns to the lost love pined over on Why?’s last album, the breaking-through-after-breaking-up Elephant Eyelash (Anticon, 2005), and settles happily into its own sense of resignation — or as Wolf puts it, "hopeful frustration" — about that girlfriend and about life. Honestly, Wolf bedazzles with bared-belly, gutsy rhymes about jerking off in museums, "blowing kisses to disinterested bitches," a childhood fear of that ShowBiz Pizza bear, "eating pussy for new fans," "sucking dick for drink tickets at my cousin’s bar mitzvah," and "using Purell till my hands bleed and swell" — and that’s just in one track ("Good Friday").

Working with Why? cohorts — brother Josiah and Doug McDiarmid — as well as Fog’s Andrew Broder, Mark Erickson, Thee More Shallows’ D. Kessler, and ex-Beulah-ite Eli Crews, Wolf has stripped off the stray mustaches he’s been hiding behind to fully expose his pungent, punchy, stream-of-consciousness rhymes. Highly specific, yes; weirdly sexy, uh-huh — right down to the CD title, named for the mysterious disorder in which hair follicles halt production.

"You don’t suffer from alopecia?" I venture.

"What are you trying to say, I’m hairy?" jokes Wolf. "I’m a monkey? I actually suffered from it for a minute — on my penis."

Nah, nah, nah, the vocalist actually had a coin-size patch of affected skin for two years: "I have a theory why mine started happening — the hand of god came down and touched me on this one spot — no, I stepped on a bottle in a river and I got some sort of infection." It lingered throughout the period that Why? wrote, recorded, and mixed the new full-length, like an uninvited sweetheart. "It was looming and ominous and weird. At first I thought it was a fucking STD," Wolf says.

Slug of Atmosphere ended up setting him straight at a show in Baton Rouge, La., Wolf continues, and in the end, the bald patch "symbolized that period of my life for me, the creation of this record. For me, it was this little patch of honest skin: honest flesh with no covering or pretenses of an attempt to cover itself up, a little patch of baby skin that was really soft. That’s what I was thinking, a return to the raw." Oh, and it’s a tad sexy: "It’s a pretty word," Wolf adds. "It sounds like a flower." *


With Dose One, Cryptacize, and DJ Odd Nosdam and DJ Jel

Thurs/6, 9 p.m., $13

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF



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