We review Blitzen Trapper VII (out now on Lojinx Records)
The excellent Blitzen Trapper have been releasing albums for ten years; as the title indicates, this is the seventh. Like its predecessors, “VII” stalks a territory so steeped in country rock you can smell the moonshine, multiplying this with a melodic feel for experimenting with dynamics and arrangements and smoothing the whole thing over with a crisp production that feels simultaneously modern and retro. Their whole Eagles-meets-(late-era) Beatles sound is now so brilliantly, faithfully honed that one only wonders why they are yet to experience worldwide commercial success in the face of such a paucity of interesting music in the pop charts. Surely songs like “Ever Loved Once” are only a few spins on primetime national radio away from attaining classics-to-a-generation status. Sadly, the national radio playlisters continue to express interest merely in the latest ricewater-weak turds to emerge from Cowell’s Bowells and the “edgy” ones (note inverted commas for extra sarcasm) remain intently determined to keep investing in poor rehashes of the White Boy Weak Rock Band as epitomised by Oasis, The Smiths and every one of the ten million utterly shit bands on the continuum between the pair)
Fortunately, such a splendid group as this need little in the way of mainstream recognition to find an audience, and it is a fast-growing army of followers who will give “VII” a heartfelt welcome. While musically it follows much the same paths they have trodden before, there is a noticeable veering towards incorporating very danceable grooves – at times things become decidedly funky. Meanwhile, on “Oregon Geography” and the subsequent “Neck Tatts, Cadillacs” they move in a direction perhaps best described as hip-hop meets delta blues meets New Orleans funk, a mashing of the old and new which turns all three genres inside out and emerges victorious.
“VII” is a succinct and slick record, one which progresses just enough without messing with their core sound. I still can’t quite judge where it fits in terms of their best records; perhaps around the edges of the top three, having a few standout tracks scattered among a number you might describe as solid but unspectacular. But it is still easily far, far better than most of the bullshit which is predictably promoted by a jaded mainstream media bloated on corporate favour and much too lazy to shift themselves to discover any music without a five-figure promotional budget and free cocaine at their launch party. Existing followers will find “VII” indispensible; newcomers won’t be discouraged from exploring their back catalogue more fully.