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Positive Feedback ISSUE 49
may/june 2010


Blitzen Trapper, Destroyer of the Void
by Michael Mercer


Sub Pop (release date: June 8th, 2010)

Blitzen Trapper is a great band. They carve out a sound completely their own, while showcasing their many influences in a genuine way. Many people would call their sound "vintage" or "Classic", but that would be shortchanging this engaged group of soulful musicians. Destroyer of the Void, the bands fourth album, is aptly titled as it seems to put a cap on my generation's X-factor. Rather than sounding pissed off at everything that's been homogenized and commercialized, they sound content in their hopeful harmonies, grass-rootsy-laid back rhythms, and positively mellow grooves. The sonic flavorings are akin to a merger of The Who, Jerry Garcia Band, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and many of the bands that opened for The Grateful Dead on their long, strange trip.

Blitzen provides a looking glass into rock-n-rolls golden years on Destroyer of the Void without sounding like a cheesy cover or tribute band (please, attending festivals full of tribute bands is like scraping at the past for a fix like a worn-out junkie). Like Roger Daltrey singing "This is my generation"; Trapper represents the goodness of my generation; our drive to push forward while keeping true rock-n-roll close to our chest. If you can't recall any classic rock stations from childhood in your hometown, or remember your first concert, this band may not strike you. There's a soothing familiarity in their songs, a glimpse of analog-driven music, more distinctive and authentic. If however you love everything about good, honest pop music and rock-n-roll then I highly recommend checking these guys out.

The title track kicks off Destroyer… with Queen-like harmonies, complete with a stripped down piano break, followed with ascending melodies and soaring vocals. The introduction to "Laughing Lover" is Pink Floyd and Boston rolled into one. The chorus; both upbeat and harmonious, exemplifies Blitzen Trapper's hopefulness. They even conjure up a little Steely Dan vibe here, but keep the sound modern. "Below the Hurricane" is classic, airy Led Zeppelin (so I'm guilty of classifying them to death as well. It isn't easy to describe the feelings you derive from music, and it's the feeling of these bands that I am often referring to here (as well as their sounds of course). Trapper seems to cover all the classic bases here, sounding a little like America on "The Man Who Would Speak True" with a Cat Stevens cadence; very Tea for the Tillerman. "Heaven and Earth"; the first single released back in March to eager fans on the web, is gorgeous. Eric Earley's vocal is suspended, framed on both sides by dark, dreamy strings and piano keys. The sound here is vintage, although that word has been abused almost as much as "indie" these days. Earley is backed up by guest vocalist Alela Diane on "The Tree" and they harmonize beautifully, doing a kind of Simon and Garfunkel-style ending (their "la la las" sounding like a present day version of the legendary pairing).

They pick things up a bit for "Evening Star" while maintaining the sonic signature of this album; a sound that is a culmination of great, classic rock tunes. It seems a shame to have to compare these guys to anybody, as they create wonderfully warm and inviting music, but it's a necessary evil in this job. That said; Earley even sounds a bit like Dylan on "Sadie"; the album's closer. Sonically this album also has a seventies-style feel. The drums are tight and powerful, but not exaggerated and bloated. The vocals are crisp and detailed, and placed (for the most part) in the middle of the soundstage, no wild panning just for the sake of playing around. The sonic integrity of Destroyer of the Void is as genuine as its musical integrity. The artwork is fantastic as well! Remember those days, when you used to listen to a whole album while reading the lyrics and checking out the artwork? This album took me back to those times, and it's been a joyous ride. I hope to be listening to Blitzen Trapper for the next thirty years. If they keep making records like this one, that won't be a problem. Check them out ASAP.