Posts Tagged ‘Human Question’

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The Yawpers fourth album delivers more great rock ‘n’ roll. The Denver trio The Yawpers are blazing a trail of roots rock brought bang up to date with balls and panache that gives one hope for the current state of American rock. It ain’t dead yet. On their last album – 2017’s Boy In A Well – they veered off left field to deliver a concept album set during the First World War, but on “Human Question”, their fourth, they deliver ten songs that, whilst having an over-arching theme of redemption, self-destructiveness, and the healing that can come from unity – be that in a band or society in general – is a ride filled with great songs that raise you up, smash you to the ground, and drag you to your feet again, until your ears feel like they’ve been in the aural equivalent of a mosh pit. These guys do tension and changes in tempo with real finesse.

Opening track “Child Of Mercy” sets the scene with its discordant intro. There is a Doors-like guitar hovering lightly over the dark rhythm. The vocals are shamanic, the lyrics full of street shaman smarts over a heavy, tight blues beat. The drums pound. The guitar gets dirty. There is a heavy bridge, the guitars slicing through like power tools, building up into an explosion of sounds ravaging the streets.

Dancing On My Knees is more heavy blues with a 60s rock beat. The drums pound out the message hitting the beats on the vocal punches. The background vocals are like police sirens and a devil’s chorus. The bass veers off into demonic deepness. The violent chaos is controlled, brought back into subtle rhythm and a bottleneck guitar shrieks and howls like an animal in pain at the side of the road. There is more control on Human Question, a 70’s psychedelic rock infused song, but it’s a control filled with tension. It is the beauty of desperation and it builds up layer by layer. Man As Ghost is Americana tinged with folk music and displays a more contemplative side to The Yawpers. This is music played on a porch, staring across at a mountain sheathed in clouds, wondering about life.

Next up, Earn Your Heaven, is a raw slab of Stooges like rock ‘n’ roll mayhem. The drums pound and pound and hold it all together as the guitars strew the studio with mayhem. Time to take a breath with Reason To Believe – a delta blues number that resonates like a memory from some dim remembered past. It is elegiac and full of spirit. Carry Me is a gorgeous, slow-burn of a song that fuses gospel, soul and rock that starts slow and mournful as the singer lays out his sins and builds up into full throttle rock voiced fervour as he begs for salvation. Stunning. Forgiveness Through Pain is fuzz boogie woogie with Led Zep influences to the fore. It’s dirty blues, heavy with salaciousness. Can’t Wait returns to the laid-back folk tinged Americana sound, with a lighter touch that feels like the sun emerging after a storm. Album closer Where The Winters End has a 50’s ballad opening, followed by jangly 60’s rock. It’s a haunting rock prayer that is a perfect, thoughtful end to a great album.

It’s not always easy to say why a band sounds the real deal but these guys do. Part of it is due to it being so effortless, as though rock runs through their blood and into their muscles and straight into the instruments. This is roots rock at its basic level but so much more with complex shades that are revealed on repeated plays – that’s if you can switch off from the physical response your body has to the visceral blues rock hybrid. It has everything a good rock album should – rock out tunes with violent energy, nuanced moments of folk and blues, thoughtful lyrics and band members who all complement each other, each taking a moment in the spotlight but always remaining a band.

Recommended for people who like real rock ‘n’ roll music.

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“‘Human Question’ cements The Yawpers’ position as one of the best rock and roll bands around at the moment. They’ve developed their musical palette beyond the potential shown on previous releases and this has resulted in their most complete-sounding record yet… This may well be The Yawpers’ masterpiece…Flawless.”

Denver three-piece The Yawpers return with their third record‘Human Question’. There are few acts around with a back catalogue as strong as they have over the space of two full-lengths, with killer rock n’ roll their speciality. This latest release takes the bona fida Yawpers sound and ramps it up infinite notches.

On the opening, ‘Child Of Mercy’ frontman Nate Cook howls and hollers his way through a three-minute thrill ride, and results in easily one of the most exciting singles of the year. There is little respite as the frantic White Stripes-esque riff of ‘Dancing On My Knees’ follows, as Cook wails “I’ve taken all the medicine, but I’ve still got your disease”. On the rip-roaring ‘Earn Your Heaven,’ the frontman takes on the role of preacher, at one point welcoming the ghost of Harry Connick Jr to a crucifix, amidst maniacal, crashing drums and frenzied solos. It’s another highlight on a record choc-a-bloc with them.

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The growth of The Yawpers’ sound has come alongside the frontman’s development as a lyricist. Cook has said that the songs were written as a form of therapy for this record, as opposed to his previous method of an excuse to wallow in his own misery. The results are certainly candid. He sings of an “elegant fear” on the title track questioning religion and existentialism, which is more abundant when he howls to “please show me something I can believe in, something that takes it away” on ‘Child Of Mercy.’  Cook also questions his own self-doubt and acute self-awareness as the root cause of his anxieties, singing “how I look in darkness, is what makes me quiet in the light” and “I’ve been looking for some comfort in this world that’s escaping me” on ‘Man As Ghost’ and ‘Can’t Wait’ respectively.

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Despite the near-morbidity of the lyrics, the latter is as radio-friendly as The Yawpers have ever sounded. The pounding drums of new member Alex Koshak set the pace, as frontman Cook does his best Springsteen impression, and more than pulls it off. Ending on a mellow note with ‘Where The Winters End,’The Yawpers give a tender send-off to an absolutely wonderful record.

‘Human Question’ cements The Yawpers’ position as one of the best rock and roll bands around at the moment. They’ve developed their musical palette beyond the potential shown on previous releases and this has resulted in their most complete-sounding record yet. Incorporating country, punk, rock n roll, gospel, indie, blues, and pretty much anything that sounds good alongside excellent songwriting, they have created an extremely special body of work. This may well be The Yawpers’ masterpiece.

Through their first three albums, the group divined a signature style what Pitchfork described as “an expansive vision of rock ‘n’ roll, one that cherrypicks from various folk traditions: punk, rockabilly, blues, whatever they might have on hand or find in the trash.” The sound is a front-heavy, groovy, fire & brimstone punk-blues overlying a dynamic and metaphysical roots rock. On their fourth album “Human Question”, the Denver trio zooms out to a more vast and accessible stylistic and spiritual universe. The 38-minute thrill ride generates growth and cathartic self-reflection for audience and performer alike. If there was justice in this world, the Yawpers would be the savior that rock-n-roll didn’t know it was waiting for.

Following their critically acclaimed and meticulously plotted concept album Boy in a Well (set in World War I France, concerning a mother who abandoned her unwanted newborn), the Yawpers created Human Question with a contrasting immediacy. The album was written, rehearsed, and recorded over a two-month period with Reliable Recordings’ Alex Hall (Cactus Blossoms, JD McPherson) at Chicago’s renowned Electrical Audio. The band tracked live in one room, feeding off the collective energy and adding few overdubs. Through the new approach, ten songs connect with an organically linked attitude and style.

On Human Question,lead singer and guitarist Nate Cook writes his way out of trauma, rather than wallowing in it, as was his self-destructive formula in the past. “I wanted to take a crack at using these songs as therapy, really,” Cook said. “I think I’ve always been inclined to write more towards the dregs of my psyche, and explore my depressions and trauma, rather than describe a way out.” The self-reflection engages the band’s trademark dangerous, emotionally fraught choogle, and the listener is constantly kept on edge, not knowing when to brace for a bombastic impact or lean back and enjoy the ride.

The band skillfully balances that Jekyll and Hyde formulaIn “Child of Mercy” guitarist Jesse Parmet revs the engines with a disintegrating blues guitar framework, backed by a breakneck beat by new drummer Alex Koshak. Eventually, the tune whips into a cyclone of distortion and Cook’s sustained falsetto, as he howls, “Won’t you please wake me up when the night is over.” For such a raw and kinetic sound, the Yawpers are never stuck in one gear for long. They deftly navigate shifting dynamics and moods, and if you squint your ears, the Sun Studios’ Million Dollar Quartet transmogrifies into the ghosts of Gun Club, Jon Spencer, and Bo Diddley.

“Dancing on my Knees” is the direction that Dan Auerbach could’ve taken Black Keys: raw yet poppy, outsider while mainstream, danceable while thought-provoking(lyrics include “It wasn’t what I asked for / But it’s exactly what I need / You’ve said there’s growth in agony / And we finally agree”). There are moments of blunt Stooges raw power (“Earn Your Heaven”), shaker rhythms behind ‘70s psychedelic rock(“Human Question”), and the  salacious boogie of Zeppelin (“Forgiveness Through Pain”). Through it all, Human Question is impossible to confuse with anything else—it’s distinctly the Yawpers.

“Man As Ghost”, “Can’t Wait,” and “Where the Winters End” reveal a softer and contemplative side, blending touches of modern Americana and folk music. In these moments of sonic respite, Cook and company display their range through acoustic guitar strums, relaxed and aired-out tempos, and big yet dialed-in vocal runs. But, no song exhibits the band’s extended capabilities like “Carry Me,” a Gospel-soul burner that builds from hushed to impassioned, with the lead singer begging for salvation in full open-throated fervor by song’s end.

Human Question isn’t meant for the meek or casual listener. It will make you dance, mosh, sing along, and dig deep into your soul. Some people lament that rock-n-roll is dead. They just haven’t heard the Yawpers yet.

The Yawpers Are:
Nate Cook , Jesse Parmet , Alex Koshak