Whatfor: "Sooner Late Than Never"
By Eric Sams | 1 August 2008
Now that its former biggest attraction, Brett Favre, has retired, Wisconsin’s tourist bureau would be well served to spill some ink on the spate of uncharacteristically thoughtful pop music currently issuing from its capital’s snowy bosom. I have never been to Madison, though I have read plenty about the Bacchanalias endemic to the University of Wisconsin campus. Having attended an insular midwestern collegiate oasis of licentiousness myself, I like to keep tabs on the other American towns where blackout drinking is a pastime on par with, well, nothing, I guess. I was going to say “going to a movie,” but I don’t see movies five nights a week. But while my own preoccupation with problem drinking may be enough to eventually draw my tourist dollar northward to check out this besotted hamlet, a unique and bustling local music scene is an attraction of a somewhat broader appeal.
In addition to previously CMG hollered-at Madison standouts Pale Young Gentlemen and the Treats now comes the rounded, punchy “Sooner Late Than Never,” the title track of Michael Seinkowski’s alter ego Whatfor. Seinkowski’s scholarly approach to music—here focused on the same faded vintage urban pop vein mined by, say, the Strokes—allows for deft absorption of a wide range of influences. “Sooner” succeeds in wringing out more of the muted hipness of Is This It (2001) in under two-and-a-half minutes than The Horror The Horror do in an entire album’s worth of material attempting the same feat (this year’s Wired Boy Child).
And this is but a single offering from a collection of tracks that credibly pings off of exemplars from Rufus Wainwright show-tunality to Beatlesque dulcet guitar pop classicism. So, again, Madison Chamber of Commerce, get on the sticks. You’ve got yourself a natural resource up there. Don’t ask why, just take advantage. Must be something in the water, or, more likely, the beer.