Album of the Month: Bit By the Fang -- John Andrews and the Yawns - For Fans of: The White Album, The Basement Tapes, early Flaming Lips, Woods
Though credited to John Andrews and The Yawns, Bit By the Fang is actually the one-man debut from Andrews, a multi-instrumentalist and member of the neo-psych collectives Woods and Quilt. As for The Yawns, they’re credited as an “imaginary back-up band,” and that description offers a pretty good indication of Bit By the Fang’s pleasantly warped vibe.
Self-recorded and performed entirely solo by Andrews, Bit By the Fang was largely inspired by a sojourn the singer/songwriter took in rural Pennsylvania. The album brings to mind the mellowest aspects of Andrews’ day-job bands, as well as offbeat Americana rock of the late-‘60s and early-‘70s (i.e. Dylan and The Band’s collaborations). This music is both soothing in its immediate familiarity and disorienting in the way that it gently skews the tradition it belongs to. Left to his own devices, Andrews reveals a bit of a mischievous streak, and arrives at a lo-fi sound that is, rather charmingly, just a bit off.
This has as much to do with Bit By the Fang’s warbled, patchwork recording as it does Andrews’ instrumental palette, which takes lazy, twanging guitar leads and saloon piano as a starting point and spirals deeper into backwoods weirdness from there (that extraterrestrial whir flitting through “Trouble (Yapes)” is, of all things, a singing saw). Andrews’ high whine of a voice is a bit lonesome and plenty odd, and mixes agreeably into this warm analogue bath of an album.
The highlights: “Peace of Mind” and “Quitting the Circus,” both of which are spiked by bluesy, loose-limbed guitar solos that favorably recall late-period Beatles; the LSD-spiked honkytonk of “Judy & Judy” and “I’ll Go To Your Funeral (If You Go to Mine)”; and “Pennsylvania,” a shaggy vignette set in Amish country.