The many-legged proposition that is Blitzen Trapper from Portland, Oregon, display with much affection their third musical offspring, and boy is it a bouncing baby. Crippled under the much-maligned genre of indie rock, the Trappers restore some faith to the notion of pale college types, guitars sneering at their student loans with real vim. Mixing up Americana, country, electronica, bluegrass and distinctly psychedelic 60’s pop. A heady brew that in lesser hands would seem like a magpie grab-bag of dissolute chancerisms. Thankfully the Trappers are up to the task.
Taking the bubblegum Beatles meets Gram Parsons tendencies that were present in Nirvana, the harmonic sensibilities of The Flaming Lips and the odd prog-western influences of – well – nobody, Blitzen Trapper conjure with greatness and show they have more up their ‘wizard’s sleeve’ in opener Devil’s A-Go-Go (and its twin Miss Spiritual Tramp) than most bands have in an entire album. Like Beck before he discovered kook-pleasing and Scientology, it is full of shronky guitar style explosions and endearing breakdowns that are cute, vulnerable and highly inventive.
The tongue-in-cheek country twang of Wild Mountain Nation (and its reprise Wild Mtn Jam replete with jew’s harp – you can almost hear the chewin’ baccy hit the tin washtub), the melancholic heartmelt of the electronica-driven Futures and Folly call to mind the much-missed hand-knitted pleasures of alt-country peers Grandaddy as does Sci-Fi Kid, which could have been plucked from their magnum opus The Sophtware Slump. And that is praise indeed.
Occasionally the kookiness trips over into irritability (see Woof and Warp Of The Quiet Giant’s Hem) but on the whole the inventive ramshackle charms and creaky production make this an album to delve into and clutch close to your head, heart and ears. In a world of bands doing safe, unchallenging blokey retreads of former glories (see Kooks, Pigeon Detectives etc) it’s a treat to hear folk using the same tools to create something fresh, familiar and accessible.
The variety of styles and general ‘have-a-go’ attitude yields the arpeggiated guitar stop-starting and harmonic pop thrills of The Green King Sings and the melodic overload of Murder Babe, that wants to be a Mersybeat T-Rex with a gloriously retarded guitar solo in the middle.
The sun-kissed acoustic melancholic Summer Town with its acousticly lovely refrain of “I only wanted to be used and then replaced” seeming heartbreaking and comforting. Similarly Country Caravan is a slide-guitar campfire strum-along that makes you subconsciously nod your head along and gives out the urge to hug the nearest person passing.
Blitzen Trapper create the line, as they put it between, “campfire singalong to dystopic atonal deconstruction”, and with Wild Mountain Nation they present a raucous and varied constellation of souvenirs, rough-hewn but lush, crackling with a weird and lucid energy. They’ve come along, tweaked with expectations of genre, added a splash of electronic soupery and are cooking up a mighty tasty feast. Tuck in!