Anybody out there remember the '80s U.K. combo Blue Aeroplanes? They're the closest comparison this critic's strained brain can make to the eclectic, happily hard-to-pigeonhole Oakland band Why? While in no way imitative of Blue Aeroplanes, Why? shares stylistic similarities with them — bright, buoyant, terse indie-rock melodies; distinctive, cozy vocal harmonies; and incredibly sarcastic lyrics alternating with charmingly absurd ones, occasionally delivered in hip-hop fashion. The chorus to the "We Will Rock You"-like opener "The Vowels Pt. 2" goes "cheery-a, cheery-e, cheery-i, cheery-o, cheery-u," with an extra-drawn-out croon on the "u." "Fatalist Palmistry" features sunny Beach Boys harmonies (circa their 20/20 and Sunflower) and a perky jangle-guitar refrain that belies the dark zaniness of the words: "Your cat clawed out my eyes while I was distracted by your smile." Why? moves back and forth between ominous mid-'90s rap and Summer of Love dreaminess on "By Torpedo or Crohn's," and whiffs of '70s bubblegum, Philip Glass minimalism, They Might Be Giants loopiness, and garage band DIY abound — this lot isn't too concerned about song placement on Grey's Anatomy. But Why? does juggle creativity, catchiness, and sardonic humor for three-quarters of an hour, and that's a darn good thing.
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