There are some bands that somewhat cluelessly, from album to album, I tend to forget I like. Portland’s Blitzen Trapper probably fall into that category. I was re-reading what I wrote about their “Wild Mountain Nation” back in 2007, about how much I enjoyed it, how much I enjoyed “Field Rexx” before that, then more or less forgot about them. I have a vaguely optimistic feeling, however, that “Destroyer Of The Void” will make more of a lasting impact.

There are some bands that somewhat cluelessly, from album to album, I tend to forget I like. Portland’s Blitzen Trapper probably fall into that category. I was re-reading what I wrote about their “Wild Mountain Nation” back in 2007, about how much I enjoyed it, how much I enjoyed “Field Rexx” before that, then more or less forgot about them. I have a vaguely optimistic feeling, however, that “Destroyer Of The Void” will make more of a lasting impact.



Not to start wringing my hands and fall into a Joanna Newsom trance all over again or anything, but right now Blitzen Trapper’s fifth, I think, album feels like one of the most directly entertaining I’ve heard in 2010. Although a lot of the band’s playfulness remains, they’ve streamlined and cleaned up their treatments of Americana and classickish rock in the past few years; there’s little this time that could be compared to Pavement, for instance.

What there is, though, are 12 crisp and almost uniformly memorable songs; dense with myth and allusion; beautifully, unfussily performed. There are a bunch of albums due in the next couple of months that plenty of people (including plenty of my colleagues at Uncut, in all probability) will be hailing as brilliant contemporary takes on American tradition, but none of them, to my ears at least, are a patch on “Destroyer Of The Void”.

The easiest reference point, I guess, is with Wilco, and the way Jeff Tweedy has consistently refracted a whole range of older music over the years. Consequently, while there are many, say, Beatles and Lennon allusions on “Destroyer…” (the melodic rasp and clang of “Love And Hate”, for instance), much of it feels like it’s gone through some kind of Wilco filter; an immensely skilful mix of power pop and Americana, perhaps. If you’re one of those Wilco fans who particularly fixate on “Summer Teeth”, “Laughing Lover” and “The Tailor” here, in particular, come heartily recommended.

In the Blitzen Trapper back catalogue, the biggest clue to how “Destroyer…” has turned out comes on “Furr”, with the unspooling Dylanish narrative, “Black River Killer”. “The Man Who Would Speak True” feels like something of a sequel/upgrade of that song, and I’m reminded too of another contemporary band, The Raconteurs (and especially their “Carolina Drama”), who conflate similar influences so effectively.

“The Man Who Would Speak True” also bears some mark of The Grateful Dead, not least the image of a “Brokedown Palace”, aligning Blitzen Trapper to the Dead’s honeyed early ‘70s roots phase. Indeed, the album actually starts with a capella harmonies in the vein of “Uncle John’s Band”, before the title track explodes into a sort of ornate prog-pop reminiscent, to some degree, of Procol Harum. “Evening Star”, meanwhile, reminds me of something like “Bertha”, perhaps.

What else? A neat Gram’n’Emmylou-style duet with Alela Diane, “The Tree”, some immensely accomplished folk-rock and piano ballads (“Heaven And Earth” is wonderful), no duffers as far as I can tell. Pretty sold on this one, and I figure a few of you will be, too…