Why Bother?


Why Bother? Serenading Unwanted Ballads LP

Wow. WHY BOTHER? made another album. Another very, very good album. This prolific band comes from Mason City, Iowa, and this is their seventh full-length record since 2021. Serenading Unwanted Ballads hits all of the marks of their signature sound: Terry’s foreboding-doom vocals and hallucinogenic synth, Speck’s shimmering guitar that’s drenched à la country western ballad in reverb or full of crunch and fuzz; Pamela’s growling bass (check out “Some Don’t Dance (Post Modern Mix)”); and the equally precise yet destructive drumming from Paul (check out “Frothy Green (Live Dec. 2020)”). The A-side comes off as a darker and at times slower version of the band, like on my favorite of the album, “Come on Inside”—absolutely haunting. The B-side gets a little more energetic and feels akin to previous releases, yet still has some dark reveries like “Thanks for the Ride” and “Testify,” the latter written and recorded by Aaron H in the Anamosa State Prison. In full disclosure, A City of Unsolved Miseries made my year-end top ten for 2023, so I come predisposed to loving this band, and I’ve been listening to this release on repeat since it came out in March. But I digress, as I’m gushing at this point—if you like post-punk cloaked in a gothic shawl set to horror synth, then do yourself a favor and listen to WHY BOTHER?

Why Bother? Calling All Goons LP

More psychotic sci-fi punk from the twisted mid-western minds of WHY BOTHER? Like a psychedelic showdown between TIMMY’S ORGANISM and the SPITS, Calling All Goons oscillates between hook-ladden stompers like “Enter Xterminator,” and disquieting somber numbers like “Climbing Out of the Sky,” where the synth adds the bulk of the color. The highlight for me was the odd sock, punk-pop goofiness of “I Wanna Be Like Pete,” with bassist Pamela lending vocals and a slight departure from the quasi-disturbing lyrical content found on songs like “What’s Wrong With Me?”. Apocalyptic themes course through the album like tributaries of toxic ooze, creating a pervasive sense of foreboding that is heightened by the layers of undulating effects and waveform patterns. This offers a nice contrast to the catchy riffs that drive much of the album. Delightfully demonic. For the goons, by the goons.

Why Bother? A City of Unsolved Miseries LP

In these post-everything times where there seems to be less and less room for truly idiosyncratic expressions, it is very pleasing to realize that there are still people playing with the space-time equation of underground music history, not to simply recreate greatness lost under the weight of memory, but to found new lineages of sound. Iowa’s WHY BOTHER? is just such a band, with a lo-fi sound that takes certain melodic ideas from late ’80s indie music (HÜSKER DÜ) and classic Midwestern punk, mixed with melancholic poppy hooks and, in this case, lyrics about unsolved murder. The result is shattering, an album full of instant left-of-the-dial anthems, with layers of synth that create eerie atmospheres for what is essentially a kind of mutant garage rock album. I read somewhere that WHY BOTHER? doesn’t play live, but I hope they keep producing music of this quality forever.

Why Bother? There are Such Things cassette

The latest in a slew of releases by Mason City, Iowa’s WHY BOTHER?, There Are Such Things is a cassette collection of songs from previous small-batch cassette/lathe releases, as well as five new tracks specific to this tape. The A-side, filled with the more straightforward new songs, is the beauty of this tape to me, with the B-side getting a little too artsy/avant-garde for this knucklehead’s tastes. All in all, it’s a very cool collection and shows the versatility of this somewhat uncategorizable band. They continue to toe the intersection of post-punk, synth punk, garage rock, art-punk, and whatever other sub-genres you care to throw at them. Dare I say, WHY BOTHER? trying to categorize them? An incredibly interesting and prolific modern band that deserves your attention. Hop to it and give this a listen!

Why Bother? Lacerated Nights LP

High-energy, synth-laced melodic punk from Iowa. They sound like the SPITS, but that’s not a bad thing. Classic punk chord progressions, catchy, slightly-detached vocals, and clean keyboard tones to hold everything in place. “Bent Spoon Blues” is a pop treasure, as much new wave as punk. “Clouds” slows down and veers into post-punk with a buzzing electronic cloud circling a moody four-note guitar pattern. “Oh Jodi” is a garage punk murder ballad from the perspective of a male killer watching news reports about his female victim. Creepsville. Similarly, “The Stalker” is from a stalker’s point of view and has lines like, “Do you know I can see you? / Do you know that I’m there? / I make sure that you’re alone / I breathe heavy as you blow dry your hair,” ending with the speaker entering his victim’s room with a rope. I like the record overall, but the lyrics of those two tracks will probably prevent a future listen.

Why Bother? A Year of Mutations LP

Honestly, what’s more likely—that Feel It’s insatiable desire to release cool new music has reached a point where they can no longer find real bands to churn out product and have instead turned to throwing darts at a map and list of genres in order to foist a backstory on session musicians, or that Mason City, Iowa (the sixteenth most populous city in the country’s second most boring state) is full of enough cool people to fill out a band who just so happen to be into the odd combination of UK DIY and SPITS-y dum-dum sci-fi punk? Conveniently, the “band,” a supposed four-piece, is also content to be an 8-track recording project and has no intentions of playing live, so we may never find out. Anyway, regardless of how it came to be, the record is stellar. It sounds like a punked-up version of EXHIBIT A/SOLID SPACE with snatches of the same laid-back, boozy garage pop that made those early JOHN WESLEY COLEMAN recordings so compelling (particularly on a track like “Hum Drum”). Get on it!