The freakiness that made them so unique in the beginning has decreased in inverse proportion to their hair: as theyâ€™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 â€œLaughing Loverâ€), buzzy old-school fuzz tones (â€œLove And Hateâ€). 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 â€œHurricane,â€ which is propelled by a frenetic 12-string strum before it collapses into a CSNY-like lope at its midpoint. But leader Eric Easleyâ€™s love of a good internal rhyme and Dylanesque inflections (â€œThe Treeâ€), and the creepy darkness that pervaded earlier albums (â€œThe Man Who Spoke Trueâ€), seem out of place in the overall sparkling sheen of Destroyer Of The Voidâ€™s production. â€œEvening Starâ€ 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. â€œThe Tailorâ€ is one of many songs that start with plaintive acoustic guitar and vocals; most of these loll at mid-tempo, like â€œHeaven,â€ which drags on into near monotony while noticeably recycling imagery from Easleyâ€™s own lyrics. Likewise, the jagged, unpredictable chord changes that were once Blitzen Trapperâ€™s hallmark have now become the opposite â€“a songwriting trope that the listener expects, almost demands, from the band.
While Iâ€™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.