Review: The Yawpers' 'Boy In A Well' Is An Intensely Dynamic Psychobilly Concept Record

By: Norman Hittle

The Yawpers’ third album, Boy In A Well, is a conceptual album set in World War I France where a mother abandons her unwanted newborn child. Yet, despite the tragic plot line, the music carries an intrigue that’s difficult to ignore.

The Yawpers. Photo Credit: Demi Demitro 

The Yawpers. Photo Credit: Demi Demitro 

Recorded with Alex Hall in Chicago at Reliable Recordings with production assistance and instrumental contributions from Tommy Stinson (The Replacements, Bash & Pop), Boy in a Well extends The Yawpers’ sound with intense, dynamic, animated, and at times, deeply personal tunes.

Boy In A Well, which is a followup to the band’s Bloodshot Records debut American Man (2015), was imagined by lead singer Nate Cook after a "reckless combination of alcohol, half a bottle of Dramamine, and an early morning flight." The result is a 12-song onslaught mingling psychological fascinations (German realpolitik, Freud, Oedipus,) and the lasting social and cultural fallout of WWI interspersed with Cook's own emotions surrounding his recent split from his estranged wife. 

Listen to The Yawpers’ first single “Mon Nom” from their new record:

The album’s psychobilly/rock-swing sonic approach seems to have influences ranging from Reverend Horton Heat, to Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, and the Cramps. And I couldn’t help but hear some very Lemmy Kilmister-inspired vocals nodding to the late and great Motorhead.

“Armistice Day” lethargically takes form with haunting piano, harmonics and chanting, leading way to “A Decision is Made,” the rockabilly-blues fusion laced with sliding guitars and guttural howls. The sobering “A Visitor is Welcomed” then takes place with an almost gentle caress of acoustic guitars in the wake of the former tracks, and leads us to an equally somber “Room With a View.” All of that ceases thirteen seconds into “Mon Dieu” with a gradual galloping climax into seeming chaos that crescendos into track six: “The Awe and the Anguish.” Here we find a lo-fi recording of twangy guitars and an almost backwater country vibe until the final half minute of anthemic post-rock.

The album artwork for Boy In A Well.

The album artwork for Boy In A Well.

“Mon Nom” builds from sporadic muted notes into a decisive cadence that marches into “Face to Face to Face,” where a blues/swing builds into straight southern rock. “No Going Back” comes to light featuring a pensive bass line that swells into a solid, yet muted distorted finality. “God’s Mercy” brings us back to a peaceful and calming moment from the maelstrom just before plunging into the surf-rock meets grunge in “Linen for the Orphan.” “Reunion” wraps up the odyssey that is Boy In A Well with a seemingly straightforward (at least for The Yawpers) rock/folk-blues vibe that would fit well in a 1970s Americana collection, drawing out on a final piano note of the angst-ridden, yet sorrowful tale of searching and longing.

The Yawpers will be in Denver at The Oriental Theater Saturday, September 16th for their record release show, with Jesse Dayton, Evan Holm & The Restless Ones, and The Beeves. Get tickets here and keep up with The Yawpers on Facebook.

-Norman

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.