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Live, Blitzen Trapper are a visceral force, rumbling riffs powering their retro take on alt. pop. Yet somehow, on record, the raw power of their live shows is stripped. The band's fifth record, Destroyer of the Void is an unholy sprawl which references Zeppelin, The Beatles and, um, Yes to create a meandering oddity.
Despite the (predominantly) momentous influences there is something genuinely underwhelming here. It is as if Blitzen Trapper have stripped the folkiest aspects of Zeppelin and simmered them down to reveal Ryan Adams at his lowest ebb: pedestrian, unasking and ultimately content.
Opener ‘Destroyer of the Void’ is etched with pseudo-prog traits. Harpischord, bombast and multi-tracked vocals create an eerily outdated sound, setting Destroyer of the Void's stall as an overblown oddity. Yet it seeps out into a gentle piano led shuffle taking nods from Flaming Lips, Led Zep and Queen: the song is plain bloody odd, yet the track makes for a concise analogy for the record – initial impressions give way to something subtler.
The muted ‘The Tree’ features the loveably palatable Alela Diane on backing vocals, wandering alt. country is steeped in a beauty that evades Blitzen Trapper elsewhere. That’s not to say these boys are all callous noise and brash chord changes, there is a very much understated side to the record, though at times understatement runs close to apathy.
Following a brief introduction to Blitzen Trapper at All Tomorrow’s Parties back in May it felt like this record should, well, rock. Yet here there’s little trace of a band powered by over-priced booze and a crowd of beards. Instead we are left in limbo, the aching torment of a palatable soundscape tumbling between dual vocal harmonies and a progression of ‘farmer chords’.
Elsewhere the bass-driven ‘Evening Star’ leads the band to an uncomfortable place between Turin Brakes and Eels, ending on the wrong side. Shuffling percussion eases Eric Earley’s vocals, evoking dusk on a dirt track, but for all their imagery Blitzen Trapper lack bite.
‘Lover Leave Me Drowning’ is jaunty and does more than hint at a Fab Four influence. Taking chords from ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ and lines (notably the title) from ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ it shows a sense of humour largely absent elsewhere on this record. Yet for the tongue in cheek silliness, Blitzen Trapper almost win you over here. Rich in melody and hinting at a more endearing quality, it’s a shame it took so long to arrive at this point.
It’s not to say Blitzen Trapper suck, they really don’t, but neither do they challenge or even embrace the listener. This is an album recorded behind bullet proof glass – no trace of emotion has passed through and while it’s no bad thing to have a balanced record, music, art, by definition should express something. Quite what is expressed here is unclear, but for the most part it is of little lasting worth.
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