Blitzen Trapper | VII
by Luke Barham
Surviving as a band in a professional capacity is no easy feat in this day and age. Most bands never make a second album or limp rather than walk in to a third if they are lucky enough to be allowed the luxury. VII is unbelievably the seventh release from Portland alternative country types Blitzen Trapper, a band still going strong after 13 years. This band must be running purely on love rather than money as it seems hard to see them ever growing beyond their cult status; something that makes VII all the more interesting.
Firstly, this isn’t your regular Blitzen Trapper record. Their usual 70’s rock production is traded for something all together more contemporary. Drums are shrunk down like beatboxes, Gospel backing added (Shine On) and half spoken/half sung lines lead, which have more in common with Alabama 3 than Rick Derringer. Opener ‘Feel The Chill’ is a real southern rock redneck affair and the blue print for most of what follows. With wailing harmonica’s and lyrics about hunting Deer we are placed firmly on the porch of a trailer with a warm can of Bud Light in hand. I can’t help but think of Kid Rock. Is that a record being scratched? What year is this? Shine On, Thirsty Man and Valley of Death all stick to this mould and while the results aren’t horrible they are probably best suited to sound-tracking a back yard BBQ.
A record of two halves, it’s not until the second act that it truly begins to shine. ‘Heart Attack’ shows flashes of the Blitzen Trapper of old with its dueling fuzzy guitars – this is more like it. Jam band mode really suits these guys, if only there were nine more of these on the record! Doors meets Steely Dan on ‘Faces of You’ with its rambling Moog lines, and closer ‘Don’t Be A Stranger’ is a banjo-laden country rock drunken send off. They’ve always nailed that sound.
Sadly this record takes too long to find its feet but is back-loaded with some real quality. At its best VII is reminiscent of Cake’s 1996 breakthrough ‘Fashion Nugget’ and at its worst sounds like that dude who once married to Pam Anderson. 2011’s Goldwing was the sound of a settled band at the top of their game which leaves this departure all the more baffling. While being a brave move in to a more pop territory it leaves you wondering if we will ever see an eighth album and if so what it might sound like. This undoubtedly talented band seem to of got a little lost at the lights.
‘VII‘ is released on Monday 30th September, via Lojinx.