Blitzen Trapper – Wild and Reckless
Lojinx – 3 November 2017
Described by Blitzen Trapper’s frontman Eric Earley as a companion and extension of their 2008 album Furr, Wild and Reckless, the Portland outfit’s ninth album began life as a stage production, a sci-fi love story rock musical about heroin abuse, desperation, true love and western power structures in bygone Portland. Following its success, the band took seven of the original songs and added new ones to form the album, opening with the shambling psych-folk/country Rebel, the story of a former cop who, according to Earley, “After several tries at the American dream he ends up selling cocaine to blue bloods in the Hollywood hills”, his life and marriage falling apart as a result.
It’s followed by the Neil Young meets Springsteen title track, building from piano ballad intro to a driving roots rocker, and, bridged by the 54-second Forever, clearly evidencing its theatrical origins, Joanna, a stark and bleak acoustic tale of a thirteen-year-old trailer park girl who shoots the abusive drunk who raped her. Pure early Dylan in form and content, his influence can also be heard on the anthemic album closer Wind Don’t Always Blow with its gospel backing, swelling organ and impassioned guitar solo fade from Erik Menteer.
Following an 80-second foreign accented spoken word intro of static crackling stream of consciousness random phrases that include mention of The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Spock and the Beastie Boys, No Man’s Land emerges as haunted mid-tempo ballad about the way love can possess you and “leaves this mark like the back of a hand.” Fading away rather too soon, it gives way to the similarly themed Stolen Hearts (“sometimes love don’t make a sound, it just robs you blind and leaves you on your knee”), another catchy chorus mid-tempo Dylan-flavoured country rock number complete with harmonica and soulful backing.
Having hit the motherload of all-consuming romance, it explodes with the fireworks of Dance With Me, an exuberant love number that might be best described as love and the apocalypse as Earley sings “Dance with me before the lights go down for good”, the sentiment also bolstering the chords-tumbling jubilant Springsteen/Petty-tinged Love Live On. The lines about how “from the first time that I caught your eye I knew the worlds would be collidin’ and the stars fall from the sky” reprised in the penultimate Forever Pt 2, another track with a sampled spoken word intro, cosmic swirl and vocoder treated vocal before the spare, piano-accompanied song proper emerges.
It’s not an entirely successful stylistic experiment and, although they stand up in their own right, the same holds true of the 70s blues and funk groove on When I’m Dying which feels at odds with the rest of the album, although it does pair well with the subsequent Baby Won’t You Turn On Me with its Southern country rock feel that calls to mind the likes of Skynyrd and the Allmans. Still, that’s a minor niggle in what is, otherwise, a terrific album. “The wind don’t always blow and the sun don’t always shine”, sings Earley on the closing track, but the weather report here is just fine.
Order Wild and Reckless via Amazon