The greatest bit of education I got when I was at university didn’t come from a professor, it came from my then new friend Alex, a kid from Calgary who introduced me to the weird, wonderful world of Anticon (and all of its followers). I was already into hip-hop, but the closest I got to the underground was the Pharcyde or all the purple drank mixtapes I brought with me from Houston (DJ Screw, never forget). But the first time Alex played cLOUDDEAD’s Ten for me, there was no going back and I was hooked for life. Ten may be cLOUDDEAD’s greatest release, but its greatest achievement is still the wildly divergent paths frontment Adam “Doseone” Drucker and Yoni “Why?” Wolf went down after the dissolution of the supergroup. You could call both of them the wildly wordy brains of the outfit, but Yoni Wolf was the undeniable heart and post-cLOUDDEAD he seemed to really seize that by going more melodic and complex in his songwriting. Still, as the new video for “Jonathan’s Hope” (weirdly off the now almost two year old album Mumps, etc…) proves, he’s never really let go of his hip-hop origins, if anything he’s only gotten better at integrating that past into the melodic indie rock he now crafts.
Hopping from desiccated urban landscape to spotless suburban cul-de-sac to hip urban renewal center, Wolf and his bandmates shed identities as he gives a life’s story for a protagonist grown weary with everyone’s stupid questions: ask him about the time he had the mumps and he’ll tell you “Yes!/My swollen nut and neck/Shrunk” with the cadence of a Catskills comedian while admitting the lingering scent of the sick stays with him. Musically the song occupies some slim space between casual funk and a macabre clank, dropped rocks functioning as a snare replacement, a slinky guitar angling around a ghostly choir. The video’s got Wolf doing the urban zombie shuffle, glitching out in spaces he takes ownership of while recognizing the encroachment of the misguided young, like that “Dumb tart from Illinois/In a shirt that says/’I Heart Michigan Boys’.” The song may lack the static hiss and brokedown electronics of cLOUDDEAD’s “Dead Dogs Two,” and it’s far clearer in narrative, but it shares an exhausted urban ennui and takes me back a decade, to when this was a voice I was just discovering. Wolf himself says “It took me 30 years to learn my patterns,” but that’s understandable when the wordplay and aesthetic is this complex, when the artistic interest is continually shifting. He might have those patterns down, but damned if I’m not still exploring them, just as interested now as I was at the start.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover