Founder of Liverpool’s psych-pop heroes The Coral, Bill Ryder-Jones has been ploughing his own furrow this last decade, releasing records and branching out into production, with credits including both the Brighton formed The Wytches and Our Girl, as well as Hooten Tennis Club and Holly Macve. Eschewing the alt-folk sound of his previous two albums, Ryder-Jones comes armed with big electric guitars and an expansive sound palette for Yawn, his fourth solo album post The Coral.
It’s a dangerous thing calling your album Yawn, and there’s no doubt that Ryder-Jones has the veritable slacker vibes down to a T. However, like artists such as Stephen Malkmus, J Mascis, and Red House Painters, Ryder-Jones elevates the surface plodding and the dirge-like into unravelling mini-maelstroms of melody-rich songs that are at once both intimate, and wide-lensed. Most songs here clock in at over five minutes, allowing plenty of time to revel in the intricate tapestry of guitars, splashes of occasional organ and cello, and an unfussy backbone of bass and drums. With a cover shot of Ryder-Jones pulling a happy face as a young boy, Yawn is a personal record that documents love and loss, delivered through a wryness that eliminates any thoughts of self-pity.
“These scars, all those senseless scars”, he sings in uber-languid, barely decipherable fashion, on the slow rhythmic groove of ‘Don’t Be Scared, I Love You’, that gradually envelopes and warms the soul. While the spine-tingling ‘And Then There’s You’ is one part sad, two parts joy, Ryder-Jones almost whispering amidst the multilayered guitars, before blossoming into a celebratory take of love as saviour amidst: “Tell me again what it’s worth / When everything hurts / There’s something like you / And then there’s you”.
And ‘Mither’ is about his Mother, just a simple song of love and appreciation delivered through six minutes of wall of sound guitars: “You still pray on my mind, when I’m proud of myself”. While opening track ‘There’s Something on Your Mind’ is a deceptively placid opener before unfurling into waves of feedback, and crashing cymbals. It’s not all big and wailing guitars, though. On ‘Recover’, he gets out his heavy stringed and up-close guitar (with brooding cello) for an intimate portrayal of redemption, while the heartfelt lament of ‘John’ is hauntingly atmospheric, and simply executed.
Occasionally Ryder-Jones dips into monotonous grunge terrain, the groove sluggish and indulgent such as on ’Time Will Be the Only Saviour’, and ’There Are Worse Things I Could Do’ closely mimics The Pixies but without the exciting dynamism of said band.
However, for the most part, there is a push and pull throughout Yawn, the songs unfolding into some kind of expansiveness before re-coiling back into their womb. Restrain and release, a bit like a yawn in scientific terms (a reflexive release and intake of oxygen), and epitomised by the two grandly epic tracks that close the album. The glacial ’No One’s Trying To Kill You’ sees Ryder-Jones continuing his battle with himself, whilst wryly singing: “There’s a fortune to be had, from telling people you’re sad”, before closing with the mixed signals of ’Happy Song’, again slowly moving, resignation at its sonic core, before once again temporarily exploding into heavy yet colourful swathes of big guitars, the song then drifting to its conclusion via quiet waves of contemplative feedback.