Music | Review
September 10, 2018 at 3:43 PM
The Yawpers, a postmodern power trio based in Denver, adapted their name from a famous Walt Whitman line about making a “barbaric” noise “over the roofs of the world.” To ensure that fans at the Wharf’s intimate Pearl Street Warehouse felt the maximal brunt of its sonic barbarism Saturday night, frontman Nate Cook hopped offstage to usher the wary as close as possible to the action onstage.
“We didn’t come 27 hours for you to stand 30 feet from us,” he said.
Standing close to the Yawpers is to feel an onrushing tide of deconstructed funky thrash blues. The trio functions without a bass — Cook and Jesse Parmet share guitar duties and recently welcomed drummer Alex Koshak to the fold — continuing the addition-by-subtraction trend initiated by Jack White 20 years ago. However, Parmet conjures a couple of neat tricks to fill out the bottom end: He plays wildly detuned guitars and splits his electronic signal into an amplifier built for bass. It’s not “cheating” so much as it’s double-tasking.
The resulting textures are compellingly thick. Yawpers tunes start out innocent enough — a rockabilly shuffle here, a Delta blues slide riff there. Cook playfully cops the ancient vocal mannerisms of Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis. Then everything stops on a dime, the seas part, Cook screams, and the innocence is pile-driven by a hardcore dose of pure adrenaline.
If there’s a downside to the excitement and violence of such grooves, it’s the drowning out of Cook’s thoughtful lyrics. The band’s most recent album, last year’s “Boy in a Well,” was a concept affair set in World War I; it includes not one but two French titles (“Mon Nom,” “Mon Dieu”) and manages not to seem pretentious. “A Decision Is Made” is probably the most unnerving tale of an unwanted pregnancy since the Sex Pistols’ “Bodies.”
In Chicago this past summer, the band finished recording a follow-up album. Several cuts from it (“Reason to Believe,” “Child of Mercy,” “Earn Your Heaven”) figured in Saturday’s hour-long set-list. Cook vowed that “Carry Me” — it was the closest they came to a ballad — would be the last song he writes about the dissolution of his marriage.
At one point, drummer Koshak stood up from his kit and leaned against the wall to catch his breath. But Cook was not finished. After buzzing through a handful of encores — “Armistice Day,” with its incantatory repetition of the phrase “the fire,” was downright chill-inducing — he was in bare feet and a sleeveless sweat-drenched tank top.
He did not come 27 hours to waste his time.