Music

Dreadful Yawns: Dreadful Yawns

Stephen Haag

This Americana-drone rock from Cleveland isn't dreadful, but it may inspire more than a few yawns.


Dreadful Yawns

Dreadful Yawns

Label: Bomp!
US Release Date: 2005-06-07
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

The Dreadful Yawns are a band that defies logical categorization. They hail from a decent rock city -- Cleveland, Ohio -- but it's an unlikely locale for the band's sound to flourish. After all, one would expect a band seriously indebted to the Byrds and modern-day Americana practitioners like Beachwood Sparks to hail from California, not the city that gave us, say, Rocket From The Tombs. Too, the label they call home, Bomp!, is a power pop haven; the Dreadful Yawns sound like they belong on Yep Roc. And let's not even going into trying to figure out what that band name means. Maybe these logical disconnects help explain why there's something off-kilter about the Dreadful Yawn's eponymous sophomore album.

On the plus side, any band that sounds like Gram Parsons' International Submarine Band can't be all bad, and sure enough, there's a handful of jaunty moments on Dreadful Yawns. I had to doublecheck the liner notes to see if "Darkness Is Gone" was an old Parsons track. It's not, but with its sweet harmonizing and lines like "Darkness is gone/ We'll soon get along/ With patience and love", it certainly could have been.

I couldn't get my hands on a copy of the band's 2003 debut, Early, but from what I understand, the tunes on that album moved at a glacial pace (the ever-reliable allmusic.com, called it a "narcotized crawl"). Here, a few tunes have some giddyap, namely "Get Yourself Back Home", "Better Things to Do", "Drinking Song" and the charming closer, a not-all-who-wander-are-lost anthem called "No Destination". Especially when compared to the too-precious songs that pepper Dreadful Yawns (see below), these songs really pop, and one wishes there were more of them. A special shout-out goes to steel guitar player Al Moss for his sweeping work, fueling the abovementioned catchy tunes.

For most of the album, though, the band -- singer/guitarist Ben Gmetro, singer/guitarist Dave Molnar, drummer Charlie Drusedow and bassist Mike Allan -- spends its time being very serious while doing their best to approximate Parsons' concept of "Astral Americana". It's a move that doesn't always work. "Part of Your Past" is a too-brooding, too-slow waltz, and "Lullaby" aims to be a disturbing murder ballad, but it comes off as laborious. I realize the narrator is a cold-blooded killer, but somehow the band (everybody sings, so I'm not sure who is who) drains all life from menacing lyrics like "I'll have to kill the one you love/ I'll have to kill you both/ I'll have to kill myself". Meanwhile, the piano-led opener "You Sold the Farm" is too-precious (always a thin line to walk) and the harmonica parts on "It's a Charmed Life" make that song unbelievably bleak and plaintive. Remind me never to spend a winter in Cleveland.

The most polarizing song on the album, though, is the 18-minute space folk jam, "The People and the Sky". After a brief intro, the band spirals off into outer space, traversing territory not seen since the heyday of the Grateful Dead, finally returning after a quarter-hour, and finishes strong with a coda that sounds more jangly, alive and vital than the rest of the album put together. By turns dark ("Waste the time of your life and watch it all pass you by") and hopeful ("Mama gives you your freedom/ Take it all to the wild blue yonder"), it's probably the purest representation of what the Dreadful Yawns are trying to accomplish, but that 18-minute runtime is still too much of a stumbling block.

For my money, the album's best moment is "Back in the Ground". It seems to be about some deceased folks who visit Earth, see that their legacies remain via friends and family, and thus comforted, head "back into the ground". Let's just say that my apartment got a little dusty when I heard this song. The Dreadful Yawns have old souls and when they want to strike an emotional chord, they certainly are capable of doing so. Still, too much of the album is spent metaphorically kicking at the dirt.

4

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image