BLITZEN TRAPPER: DESTROYER OF THE VOID (2010)
1) Destroyer Of The Void; 2) Laughing Lover; 3) Below The Hurricane; 4) The Man Who Would Speak True; 5) Love And Hate; 6) Heaven And Earth; 7) Dragon's Song; 8) The Tree; 9) Evening Star; 10) Lover Leave Me Drowning; 11) The Tailor; 12) Sadie.
With this album title, it almost looks as if Blitzen Trapper are really becoming interested in justifying the occasionally flashing tag of «New Ween For The 2000s» — reading like a parody on a self-important prog rock record. And indeed, look at the running times: the title track clocks in at 6:17, and the third one at 5:26 — of all their previous creations, only ʽConcrete Heavenʼ ran that long, but even that one was anything but a multi-part suite. Lord help us, Eric Earley has truly gone «progressive» on our asses. How does it feel?
Unfortunately, it doesn't feel at all. The attempt to branch out in terms of complexity simply ends up going nowhere. There is no purpose whatsoever to the title track other than telling us that the band can and will change keys midway through the song and then one more time, three quarters into the song. There is no interesting original theme to catch the proper attention; nothing ever goes beyond «sonically nice» as they drag out the old-fashioned synthesizers, the «epic» (but technically simple) guitar solos, the choral backing vocals, the back-and-forth loud-to-quiet alternations. I've heard it all before and I don't want this. It's BOOOOORING!
Perhaps Earley realized it himself, because, no matter how ambitious the first third of the album tries to make itself, he just cannot help but eventually get carried away on the rootsy tide. ʽLaughing Loverʼ still combines folksy upbeat pop with arena-rock riffs, psychedelic keyboard and vocal overdubs, and rhythmless harmony-based choruses, and ʽBelow The Hurricaneʼ is still long enough to envelop a two-part acoustic suite and an atmospheric «look at us making alien noises with our electronic toys» coda. But after that, Earley's «progressive drive» seems to either become exhausted, or satisfied, and the band turns back on its trusty Oregon Wilderness Machine.
For some reason, though, the Machine seems to be virtually infested with a colony of Dylan bacteria this time around. Where Bob's influence on the band used to be obvious, but indirect, it now becomes an obsession — as if playing around with progressive complexities had somehow lowered Earley's defensive shields that used to protect him from resorting to direct plagiarism. ʽThe Man Who Would Speak Trueʼ plays on like a straightahead outtake from Selfportrait (yes!!), and ʽThe Treeʼ, in itself a lovely duet between Earley and fellow Oregonian Alela Diane, «borrows» quite a few chords and vocal moves, not to mention the overall atmosphere, directly from ʽMr. Tambourine Manʼ. Why? Damn me if I know.
Both of these things — the band's inability to become interesting when going in for extra complexity, and the inexplainable switch from Dylan influence to Dylan worship — are very disappointing, and the best tracks on this album, stuck in the middle (the heavy rock anthem ʽLove And Hateʼ, with a cool-bellowing distorted guitar opposed to an optimistic singalong chorus, and the dreamy/aching piano-and-strings ballad ʽHeaven And Earthʼ), are not jaw-dropping enough, either, to heal the wounds.
It is good to know that Destroyer Of The Void does not at least repeat, note-for-note, the formula of Furr, and that Earley is still busy searching, and that the arrangements are still in great taste, and that the band still has its honest Oregon heart. But alas — the album continues to suggest that Blitzen Trapper may be past their peak, and that Earley will never again manage to sustain the same level of original chemistry and overall quality that he did on his first three albums, and that, therefore, despite the best of our hopes, Blitzen Trapper share the usual genetic disease of most of the bands of the decade: thoroughly great for a one-night stand, thoroughly lacking what it takes to build up a long-term relationship. Too bad.
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