Music

The Dreadful Yawns: Early

Jason MacNeil

The Dreadful Yawns

Early

Label: Undertow
US Release Date: 2003-11-18
UK Release Date: 2004-07-21
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Often, mellow singer-songwriting pop bands go for a style that is regularly executed but rarely cutting it in terms of quality. As their press notes say, the Dreadful Yawns are a band from Cleveland who try to not mimic but be inspired by fathers of the folk pop movement such as the late great Nick Drake. The band's debut album might fall in line with bands like Knife in the Water in terms of overall tone, mood, and tempo. This is shown quite well on the light and dreamy pop ditty entitled "When We Were Young". Guitarist and vocalist Ben Gmetro is joined on this track by a female vocalist, possibly either Cassandra Coin or Jessica Laflame. Regardless of who is singing, this track just soars without much effort on anyone's part. It's one that you'll find yourself replaying before you hit the bridge, let alone the final few fading seconds. It might actually be two songs in one as it slides into a different arrangement. With a gentle touch that recalls Ron Sexsmith at his airiest, or perhaps Elliott Smith, the band nails this seven-minute track, plain and so beautifully simple.

The group also seems to be influenced by Neil Young's folksy material, as "Village Idiot" has that toe-tapping, back porch feeling oozing out of every note. The pedal steel and harmonica give it a lot of depth as well, and it comes off like the Beautiful South doing Young's Silver and Gold album. It's this same sort of innocence that also plays a vital role in each song, including the lullaby-like "This Photograph Is My Proof", which peters out a tad over two minutes. Thankfully, they know when to quit while so far ahead. Less pleasing, though, is the rather off-kilter backbeat setting "I'll Be Born Soon" on a course with mixed results of Polyphonic Spree-ish pop and Americana touches.

Gmetro has a very good set of pipes on him, which he uses to great effect on the traditional singer-songwriter song "Your Little Cloud". Just envision him sitting on a stool and picking this tattered, well traveled guitar alone in his apartment and the song immediately comes to life. Some shakers are added on percussion halfway through, but they're not really needed all that much. He just lets the guitar do half the work and his voice the rest for a very solid and majestic result. It's also quite hypnotic the longer it goes on, sort of like the instrumental portion of Fleetwood Mac's "Never Going Back Again". Unfortunately "I Was Just Struck By Lightning?" doesn't fare as well, sounding as if, well, the band was just struck by lightning -- and left void of much feeling or substance.

Thankfully, it's the exception to the rule, though, as the Dreadful Yawns wake themselves up and get the sonic sleep out of their eyes with the sweeping and almost ethereal campfire-like "Farm Animals Take a Ride". Instruments, handclaps, and high harmonies in the distance open this song before it goes back into its shell. The sleeper on this album has to be "Cycle", which sounds like Gmetro is working on this song late at night with the germ of the idea completed the next morning. Almost consisting of a spacey, psychedelic Beatles-like quality, the tune's Tweedy-like delivery is what makes it work for a majority of the track. One notices, though, that the songs are short and probably not as fulfilled as they could be. "Highlighter" starts off with a blurry country-ized sound that you can't help but connect to. "Everyone was right / Girl you're outta sight", the lyric goes, prior to the song going into a darker and slower domain. If slow and deliberate alt. country is your cup of tea, the type that has little gloss but lots of je ne sais quois from start to finish, this will satisfy.

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