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  -  Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void (http://www.absolutepunk.net/showthread.php?t=1742682)

Jeremy Aaron 06/09/10 09:04 PM

Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void
 
Blitzen Trapper - Destroyer of the Void
Record Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: June 8, 2010

Blitzen Trapper are one of those rare bands in that, following their breakthrough album Wild Mountain Nation ("breakthrough" in that it put them on the radar of the good folks at Sub Pop Records), they were able to follow it up with an album that largely removed most of what would be considered "interesting" about their music (psych-rock guitar bursts, noisy excursions) and yet come out of it smelling like roses. Selling out for a bigger label? Perhaps it could be perceived that way, but what Furr aimed to do, it did exceptionally well, delivering glittering pop gems like "Sleepytime in the Western World", "Gold for Bread" and "God and Suicide" as well as engaging story-songs like the title track and the favorite "Black River Killer". Though it was very much smoothed out to a glossy finish, it was still easily one of 2008's most endearing pieces of country-rock.

Given the history up to its release, Furr may have been at first surprising but subsequently difficult to turn away from. Given the history up until now, Blitzen Trapper's latest, Destroyer of the Void, seems just plain puzzling. Make no mistake, the band delivers a very capable, workmanlike performance, but after they've shown such a remarkable ability to thrill while employing various approaches to their music, it's natural to expect more than mere competence. Unfortunately, the album delivers nothing remotely as snappy as Furr's more immediate sonic treats and there are only a scant few moments when it seems to aim at serving up anything more than your garden variety folk-rock songs.

One of those moments does come on the album's opening title cut, whose tight harmonies, billowing guitars, epic song length and even lyrics about "wayward sons" seem to point toward Kansas's prog-influenced Southern rock. With anything that veers into "progressive" territory, there's the potential to deliver in a big way with huge hooks, and there's also the potential to come off as self indulgent. On "Destroyer of the Void", Blitzen Trapper don't necessarily throw the payoff punch, but it's still about as exciting as the album gets.

If Destroyer of the Void has a single-worthy track, it's "Laughing Lover", the best representation of the type of grit-meets-polish number that Blitzen Trapper have proven very adept at producing. Showing that they can score big with the more subdued style most of the album possesses, the band nails it with "Heaven and Earth", a gorgeous ballad with lavish piano and string arrangements and vocalist Eric Earley at his most powerful. They're also very much at home with more cosmopolitan mid-tempo fare like the album's closer "Sadie", which borrows equally from sprightly classic powerpop as well as their more rustic influences.

In between, there are a slew of ably-made but not completely satisfying tunes, the commonplace sort that don't bring about disdain but just aren't compelling enough to demand repeat listens. Seemingly in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of "Black River Killer" (enough that it spawned an EP of its own), they return with another murder ballad, "The Man Who Would Speak True", but it doesn't hit nearly as hard as its predecessor. "Love and Hate" feels like an attempt at adding some crunch and bombast, but it's a bit sludgy and lumbering-- at just about three-and-a-half minutes, it feels about a minute longer. I'm not asking for the band that went as far as mentioning "air guitar" in their lyrics last time out, since it's clear their goals were different this time, but it would have been great to feel the little bit of adrenaline, the mid-album lift the song appeared to be shooting for, but didn't quite achieve.

And that in itself is pretty much the story of Destroyer of the Void, an album that lures you in subtly but isn't able to hold you rapt, an album that's well-crafted enough to keep you listening but never truly rewards you for your patience. As such, it certainly doesn't qualify as a supreme disappointment. It's just a completely inoffensive release from a band with the well-established potential to blow us away.

RIYLVetiver's Tight Knit
Monsters of Folk's Monsters of Folk
The Donkeys' Living on the Other Side


Track Listing1. Destroyer of the Void (6:17)
2. Laughing Lover (3:09)
3. Below the Hurricane (5:26)
4. The Man Who Would Speak True (3:07)
5. Love and Hate (3:23)
6. Heaven and Earth (3:44)
7. Dragon's Song (3:02)
8. The Tree (3:35)
9. Evening Star (3:42)
10. Lover Leave Me Drowning (3:26)
11. The Tailor (3:20)
12. Sadie (3:40)


Preview/Buy the album at Amazon MP3.

Matthew Tsai 06/09/10 10:17 PM

Can't wait to hear this album. Great review!

zachff 06/10/10 05:37 AM

This review is pretty spot on. I saw these guys at a small show in Chicago a while back and picked up Furr and WMN immediately. Black River Killer is one of the best end to end songs I own (I think I'll give it a listen now).

I've given this new disc a few spins and I just can't get into it -- nothing sticks with me. It's not a bad album by any means but I found myself thinking, "Oh that was nice, I'm going to just put Furr back on."

ElCheGuevara 06/10/10 06:29 AM

This album rules, on par with Furr if you ask me.The Man Who Would Speak is kinda a sequel to Black River Killer.

Tony Pascarella 06/10/10 01:15 PM

I adore this album. Shame it leaked so early, but I put it up there with Furr (and I love the EP in between).

theband 06/10/10 08:49 PM

This album is a grower. I like it just as much as Furr now. Is it as immediate as Furr? No. Is it as catchy as Furr? Certainly not. But it is, in my opinion, more of a cohesive album than Furr. Furr is a collection of terrific songs but it's not a great album as a whole. They cram the first 7 catchy songs at the beginning and the album suffers from it at the end. Very good review based on what was likely a few listens. I felt the same way. Give it a few listens more and you'll find what you likely missed the first listens.

Jeremy Aaron 06/10/10 09:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by theband (Post 69105602)
This album is a grower. I like it just as much as Furr now. Is it as immediate as Furr? No. Is it as catchy as Furr? Certainly not. But it is, in my opinion, more of a cohesive album than Furr. Furr is a collection of terrific songs but it's not a great album as a whole. They cram the first 7 catchy songs at the beginning and the album suffers from it at the end. Very good review based on what was likely a few listens. I felt the same way. Give it a few listens more and you'll find what you likely missed the first listens.


I don't doubt this. It's fascinating what time and exposure do for people's tastes. I think of how often I hear people say things like, "After hearing that Katy Perry song so many times, I'm actually starting to like it." And there's also, "I used to love 'Sweet Disposition', but I'm fuckin' sick of it now." Whenever I'm reviewing something, I make a point not to over-listen, because I don't want either of those to happen.

Moostachemusic 01/27/12 05:37 PM

Good Review! I can't decide if I like this better than Furr, but they are both great albums.