Blitzen Trapper: Destroyer of the Void
The freakiness that made them so unique in the beginning has decreased in inverse proportion to their hair: as they’ve gotten hairier, but their sound has been cleaned up just as much. A lot of what was essential about the band remains – elements of shiny pop (the engaging turnaround in “Laughing Lover”), buzzy old-school fuzz tones (“Love And Hate”). But what happened to the promise of the freaky, lo-fi aesthetic of Wild Mountain Nation? Their wayward rootsiness still pokes through at times, but overall the band is continuing the trajectory it began with Furr, blitzing itself into the too-safe trappings of labelmates like The Shins and Iron & Wine more than the erstwhile tones of classic rock.
Though the move disappoints me personally, the strength of the songs are still apparent on tracks like “Hurricane,” which is propelled by a frenetic 12-string strum before it collapses into a CSNY-like lope at its midpoint. But leader Eric Easley’s love of a good internal rhyme and Dylanesque inflections (“The Tree”), and the creepy darkness that pervaded earlier albums (“The Man Who Spoke True”), seem out of place in the overall sparkling sheen of Destroyer Of The Void’s production. “Evening Star” blends a thudding backbeat with tight harmonies and gleeful southern rock idioms, but as the album moves on, it begins to lag under an overused formula that is singularly theirs but too familiar. “The Tailor” is one of many songs that start with plaintive acoustic guitar and vocals; most of these loll at mid-tempo, like “Heaven,” which drags on into near monotony while noticeably recycling imagery from Easley’s own lyrics. Likewise, the jagged, unpredictable chord changes that were once Blitzen Trapper’s hallmark have now become the opposite –a songwriting trope that the listener expects, almost demands, from the band.
While I’m sure their live show will still retain the rawness that made them sound so immediate and great only a couple of years ago, Destroyer Of The Void has actually smoothed out a few too many edges to save fans from the tepid abyss against which the promise of Blitzen Trapper once raged.