Artist: The Yawpers
Album: Boy in a Well
Label: Bloodshot Records
Release Date: 8.18.17
Trench warfare was ugly, nasty business in World War I, what with all the barbed wire, poison gas, endless mud and soul-crushing disillusionment. Transported to battle-scarred France circa 1914-18, the ambitious—if rather dismal—concept album Boy in the Well from down-and-dirty, Denver-based blues freaks The Yawpers acts as if the fighting never ended.
Fascinated by the complex underlying issues and devastating consequences of the “war to end all wars,” not to mention the psychological damage its savagery inflicted, lead singer Nate Cook—on a red-eye flight, furiously downing Dramamine and drinking heavily—concocted the anguished story of a child given up by his mother and left in a hole. In that respect, Boy in the Well is a feral literary tour de force, a speedball of fast-paced, tightly-wound garage-rock and Americana supporting intellectual storytelling. As sharp as a bayonet, Jesse Parmet’s bottleneck slide guitar adds that haunted, downhome Delta feel.
Darker and less campy than the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, but just as wild, with Tommy Stinson lending production guidance and instrumental help, The Yawpers crash and burn with maniacal bluster and nervous energy in “A Decision is Made” and a locomotive “Mon Dieu.” Volatile loud-quiet dynamics heighten the tension of “Mon Nom,” “Face to Face to Face” and “No Going Back,” as mean groove and hooks detonate, causing fuzzed-out, tortured punk explosions. No amount of booze can erase from memory the bitter howl emanating from the gloomy, smoldering ruins of opener “Armistice Day,” and the stark loneliness and desperation of “Room with a View” is as affecting as the red-hot psychobilly of “Linen for the Orphan” is deranged. Violence is in the air of Boy in a Well.