Blitzen Trapperâ€™s 2010 follow-up, Destroyer Of The Void, was a spikier affair. Beginning with an unsuccessful attempt at a multi-part suite, it eventually rebounds with the orchestral lament, â€œHeaven and Earth,â€ and the eco-ballad, â€œThe Tree.â€ Earleyâ€™s songcraft, as always, is an embarrassment of riches. He deftly moves in a pop direction, managing the neat trick of referencing the solo work of Lennon and McCartney, without resorting to Beatles cliches.
Which brings us to their current release, American Goldwing. What the hell happened? The ragged, folky edges that have defined the groupâ€™s sound are beefed up by fuzzed-out power chords. Theyâ€™ve gone all alpha male, with lyrics like â€œOld Fletcherâ€™s in the car drinkinâ€™ whiskey from a jar through his teeth,â€ delivered with attempted toughness. I love the classic rock anthems of Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd as much as the next guy, but half an albumâ€™s worth of shit-kicking rockers is way too many for this scruffy bunch of Portlandians.
The remaining half is great, but only good by Blitzen Trapper standards. â€œLove the Way You Walk Awayâ€ conjures up the sepia-toned America of truck stops and endless highways Earley is straining to commune with. â€œMy Home Townâ€ is a simple, banjo-flavored ramble that feels effortless. â€œGirl In A Coatâ€ is a gorgeous waltz, featuring acoustic guitar, cosmic synths, and lush harmonies.
Co-producer Greg Williams and mixer Tchad Blake have fashioned a fatter, arena-ready sound for the band, but thereâ€™s an emotional core missing. Itâ€™s a shame if Earley and the boys feel they have to dumb it down to rock bigger stages. The funny thing is, it just might work.