Ter­rell’s Tune Up

The Yaw­pers’ Boy in a Well

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Steve Ter­rell

It took a few weeks for Boy in a Well, the new al­bum by The Yaw­pers, to grow on me. I’m not ex­actly sure why my ap­pre­ci­a­tion was de­layed. Per­haps I was try­ing to fol­low the weird sto­ry­line run­ning through the song lyrics. (No, it’s not a rock opera, so re­lax, skep­tics.) Maybe I was un­fairly try­ing to com­pare the songs here to other songs deal­ing with World War I (Home­work as­sign­ment: Fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with the work of Eric Bogle, writer of “And the Band Played Waltz­ing Matilda” and “The Green Fields of France”). But af­ter a few lis­tens, grow it did, and I came to re­al­ize this rowdy lit­tle band from Den­ver has cre­ated one of the most rock­ing lit­tle al­bums of the year. And now I can’t get enough. Here’s a thumb­nail sketch of the plot from Boy

in a Well. It deals with the il­le­git­i­mate child of a French woman who makes a lit­tle whoopee with an Amer­i­can sol­dier on the day in 1918 that the war­ring na­tions signed the peace treaty that ended that sense­less con­flict. Shamed by her fam­ily, the mother drops the baby down a well shortly af­ter giv­ing birth. But the kid sur­vives and his mom, who thinks he’s the sec­ond com­ing of Jesus (!), keeps drop­ping food down the well to sus­tain him. Fi­nally he grows up and climbs out. What fol­lows might be de­scribed as a se­ries of Oedi­pal wrecks. Ac­cord­ing to the Blood­shot Records promo ma­te­rial for the al­bum, “The story-vi­sion was ini­tially con­jured by lead singer Nate Cook, af­ter a reck­less com­bi­na­tion of al­co­hol, half a bot­tle of Dra­mamine, and an early morn­ing flight.” (It’s an old trick, but some­times it works. Maybe that’s how Walt Whit­man came up with the line that spawned the name of this band: “I sound my bar­baric yawp over the roofs of the world.”)

But as I said above, this crazy plot is nearly im­pos­si­ble to cull from Cook’s vo­cals. I cheated and read a song-by-song de­scrip­tion by Cook and Yaw­pers drum­mer Noah Shomberg on the web­site Con­se­quence of Sound last month. There is also a graphic novel — we called ’em “comic books” when I was a lad — il­lus­trated by Leg­endary Shack Shak­ers front­man Col. J.D. Wilkes. You can see a pre­view in Paste mag­a­zine: www.tinyurl.com/ pasteyaw­pers.

But as in­ter­est­ing as this story turns out to be, it’s the mu­sic, not the words that seals the deal. With big sonic traces of Shack Shak­ers, The Gun Club, ZZ Top, and their own twisted take on rock­a­billy, The Yaw­pers rip through most th­ese songs with an ur­gency that’s un­de­ni­able. You hear it in the very first song, “Armistice Day,” where, af­ter some por­ten­tous pi­ano, the group comes in with a chug­ging rhythm that starts off rel­a­tively laid-back, though the drums and gui­tars steadily build in in­ten­sity un­til by the last verse, the band is wail­ing. The next song, “A De­ci­sion is Made,” is raw psy­chobilly freak­out.

The next cou­ple of tunes, “A Vis­i­tor Is Wel­comed” and “Room With a View,” are slow and melodic. And thus comes one of my few qualms about this record. I can un­der­stand the need for a breather now and then, and the change of pace now and then can make an al­bum feel richer. For in­stance, later in the al­bum, there’s a num­ber called “The Awe and the An­guish” that, for most of the song, is a raw acous­tic blues be­fore it turns into a thrash­ing stom­per in the last verse. And that works. But the fact that th­ese two mel­low tunes, “Vis­i­tor” and “Room,” are right next to each other — and come so early in the track list — screws with the mo­men­tum of the al­bum.

For­tu­nately the next track, “Mon Dieu,” is a wild ride. And so is the rest of the al­bum. While there are a cou­ple more slow songs (the gor­geous “God’s Mercy” and the fi­nal song, “Re­union”), Boy in a

Well is an ex­hil­a­rat­ing blast of un­abashed rock ’n’ roll. Yaw­pers, keep on yaw­pin’. Check out www .blood­shotrecords.com/al­bum/boy-well. Be­sides the al­bum in var­i­ous for­mats, you also can pur­chase Col. Wilkes’ graphic novel there.

Also rec­om­mended:

Claw Ma­chine Wiz­ard by Left Lane Cruiser. Hey, I’m not the only guy in New Mex­ico who likes Left Lane Cruiser. Skinny Pete, an Albuquerque drug dealer, also digs them. At least LLC was play­ing in his car dur­ing a scene in the third sea­son of Break­ing Bad. I bet Skinny Pete also would like the In­di­ana duo’s new one, re­leased ear­lier this year. Front­man Freddy “Joe” Evans IV — who plays slide gui­tar and sings, is backed by drum­mer Pete Dio (no re­la­tion to Skinny Pete), who came on board a cou­ple of years ago.

Like pre­vi­ous Cruiser al­bums, this record Acon­sists mostly of good old ba­sic stripped-down gut­ter blues. How­ever, there are a cou­ple of tracks that show hints of (gulp) va­ri­ety. “Lay Down” fea­tures a reg­gae groove (think Bob Mar­ley’s “Jam­ming”), while “Smoke Break,” which be­gins with a short drum solo, is an in­stru­men­tal that show­cases a jazzy or­gan by pro­ducer Ja­son Davis. And on the fi­nal song, the slow-boil­ing, six-minute “In­dige­nous,” there might — I said might — be some kind of po­lit­i­cal mes­sage buried un­der the roar­ing sludge. Some of the only lyrics I can make out in the first verse are “The grand wiz­ard raised a hand,” which im­plies some kind of Ku Klux Klan ac­tion. Later in the song, other lyrics I can sort of un­der­stand in­clude, “Don’t we all, baby, have to lift each other up?” and later some­thing about “hate­ful hypocrisy.” In the re­frain, Evans sings, “Rise up, my friend.” It ain’t Woody Guthrie, but it ain’t bad. Cruise in the Left Lane at www.alive-records .com/artist/left-lane-cruiser. It’s got Spo­tify em­beds for this and sev­eral other LLC al­bums on the Alive/ Nat­u­ral Sound la­bel.

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