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I know it's not a cool thing to say, but I like ZZ Top. Their lyrics are awful and should never be listened to, but I enjoy boogie blues rock—bluesy rock music that moves to a groove which gets you on your feet (in theory; I don't know that I've ever seen anyone dance to ZZ Top). The Yawpers display a similar boogie sensibility on Human Question, but one that folds in much more contemporary influences, like punk and metal. It'll definitely get you on your feet, but without feeling bad about yourself.
The Yawpers are a trio out of Denver featuring two guitars and a drummer but no bassist. The band does a wonderful job providing a full sound, without it feeling like they're trying to fill every inch of their tracks. The music is dense and interesting, but there's still enough sonic white space to let the songs breathe. That's good news for singer/guitarist Nate Cook, who has a serious, intense voice, but not a particularly booming one.
Human Question isn't a blues album, but it's blues-influenced. What's cool about it, is that the blues isn't telegraphed the way a lot of boogie rock can be. The boogie is subtle, but you feel it. On "Forgiveness Through Pain," the band kicks things off with a clean, bluesy riff before kicking in to distortion and pounding drums. Cook speaks/sings over the chaos a la "Subterranean Homesick Blues" Bob Dylan, but with an energy like he had way too many shots of espresso. The chorus moves enough to give you aural whiplash before a charmingly simple blues solo reboots the song. And then the Yawpers do it all over again and just about a perfect three minutes after the song started, it’s over.
The Yawpers are influenced by more than just the blues, though. They put in all kinds of interesting hat tips. "Child of Mercy," the album's lead-off track, features Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" riff, but deployed as a bed for Cook's manic vocals. Of course neither Simon nor Garfunkel nor even Anne Bancroft ever imagined a distortion-saturated breakdown like the Yawpers use here. And "Reason to Believe," with its sexy rhythm and blues groove, flashes some hints of the Beatles' "Come Together." Pulling in such a broad scope of influences strengthens the album, keeping it sounding fresh and interesting, if occasionally challenging to categorize.
The album was tracked live and you can hear it in the songs. There's an immediacy and presence, like Cook, guitarist Jesse Parmet, and new drummer Alex Koshak are all locked in to what the other is doing. The urgency of the album could also be a result of the songwriting, which beautifully merges genres until they're hardly recognizable. It gives the individual songs a seamlessness that feels like driving on an empty highway and suddenly realizing you're going 85 miles per hour. Human Question accelerates with just the right amount of boogie. Modern times call for modern boogies.
Notable Tracks: "Child of Mercy" | “Forgiveness Through Pain” | "Man as Ghost" | “Reason to Believe”