In the spring of 2011, Bruce Springsteen released Wrecking Ball; an ode to Americana and a critique of the capitalistic society that America had become. “No cannonball did fly / No rifles cut us down / But just as sure as the hand of God / They brought death to my hometown,” he cried. Exactly what it means these days to be ‘American’ is an intriguing question; and it’s one that The Yawpers—a Colorado-based rock band—attempt to delve into on their new album.
Aptly titled American Man, this album is, in many ways, reflective of Springsteen’s aforementioned 2011 work, boasting lyrics that echo his sentiment—“The modern world has got me up on a wire / They call it living but I’m hardly livin’ at all.”
The album delves into the underlying human aspect of the flip side of the American dream, but it’s not a cry against capitalists. Instead, the Yawpers turn to the more philosophical and personal struggles of everyday American life: The expansion of cities, the contradictions of religion, and the social norms society revolves around.
The sound is undeniably American—the blues-rock influences are the most evident—but there’s also some tinges of Mumford & Sons folkyness in there too. The opening track, “Doing It Right,” boasts a guitar riff reminiscent of The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy,” whilst third track, “Burdens,” tells tales of small-town struggles: “Life in this town isn’t as easy as it seems / It eats up your heart and spits away your dreams.”
The album begins to go south somewhere between the point at which “9 to 5” becomes “Walter,” which leads into the frequently-terrible “Kiss It.” And, to put it simply, the fifth song, “Deacon Brodie” is simply unlistenable with its haphazard arrangement and lyrics that verge on the ridiculous. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to deny the album’s concept, and it’s the stunning title track that proves to be the (all-too-early) highlight. This Sun Kil Moon-esque masterpiece encompasses in two lines what the album fails to convey in its entirety: “I’ve never been the type to go downtown / There’s too much colour and too much sound / If father could have seen this he would have burnt it all down.” It’s sad, and longing, reminiscing on a time that used to be. But it’s also knowingly contradictory: “Raise the flag / Oh isn’t she grand? / I salute her virtues / With blood on my hands,” brilliantly achieving the sense of confusion-tinged patriotism that the band only claws at throughout much of the other songs.
It seems the album’s aforementioned standout reflects the reality of the new American dream well: One bright light shining above a sea of dark, uninspired, and monotonous filler.
Knock-off Bruce Springsteen & The Black Keys
“Life in this town isn’t as easy as it seems / It eats up your heart and spits away your dreams.”