WHY? @ Band on the Wall, Manchester, 24 Oct

You can't really fault the musicianship, but WHY?'s set features more annoying elements than sounds that stop you in your tracks.

Live Review by Pete Wild | 01 Nov 2019
  • Why?

“Does anyone have any questions?” WHY? frontman Yoni Wolf asks about a quarter of the way through an approximately 20-song set at Manchester’s Band on the Wall. “We’ve tried this before and it works really well.” The audience don’t seem convinced. “Why?” someone yells. “Oh we don’t explain why we’re called WHY?” Yoni answers. “Why?!” they yell again.

WHY?, for the uninitiated, are a touring five-piece made up of the aforementioned hip-hop stylings of Yoni Wolf, multi-instrumentalists Doug McDiarmid and Matt Meldon, drummer Josiah Wolf and keyboardist Liz Wolf. The Q&A is typical of a band who once produced an EP based on stalking several of their fans online. But this tour centres on the new record, AOKOHIO, an album of rags and patches if there ever was one (19 songs over 33 minutes, except many of the songs aren't full songs per se but rather song excerpts or song sketches or song ideas).

You can’t really fault the musicianship; these guys can play. It’s just for every song ‘movement’ (a song can be made up of several movements, each of which sound like different fragments), there are more annoying elements than there are sounds that stop you in your tracks. And when you realise that Yoni Wolf sings a little bit like the guy from They Might be Giants, you come unstuck. For all of his prizefighting stance, for all of his mean and moody melancholy, every song (fragment) could be a They Might be Giants offcut. As soon as you hear the connection, you can no longer hear WHY?, or take them seriously.

By the end of the gig, we want to demand they resurrect the Q&A in order to ask, “Hey! Have you guys ever thought of covering Birdhouse in your Soul?” It could be the breakout hit they’re looking for.