Rubber Traits

by WHY?

With the Sanddollars EP, the Early Whitney EP before that, and now the Rubber Traits EP, WHY? has become the standard-bearer of the great Pavement tradition of using an album single as an excuse to gather together new and uncollected songs. It's especially apt considering Filter called Elephant Eyelash, the album from which "Rubber Traits" is taken, the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain of "our modern indie times," whatever that means.

Besides the poignantly morbid pop of "Rubber Traits," which couples lines like "drawing days from a stacked deck" and "I want to fuck gentle on a bed of nails" with a clean Brian Wilson "ooh-we-ooh," there are three new songs. The jangly gem "Dumb Hummer" is a wry take on military chic-camo gear and street-dwarfing Humvees and essentially an essay on how one might live consciously in the overdeveloped West. When the music quiets to an acoustic line (the tasteful and distinctive work of guitarist Matt Meldon) and a tight percussive rhythm (the decidedly jazz-inflected touch of drummer Josiah Wolf), Yoni proposes his solution: a "dance without numbered footprints." The other two songs, "Pick Fights" and "Deceived," are tidy, lyric-driven pieces that wrap Yoni's cold wit and keen eye for the telling detail in effortlessly rapped vocals, showing yet again that he's always been more Dylan Thomas than Dylan, even if precious few seem to notice.

The sharp words and plainspoken tone of both songs are in a strange and mesmerizing dialogue with multi-instrumentalist Doug McDiarmid's discreetly tender piano work; it strikes one as the kind of thing that only WHY? has the license to try, much less pull off.