“DD Review: Blitzen Trapper – Live at Third Man Records/Live in Portland.”

Scores: 1/10; 9.5/10


Let’s be clear about something: when Blitzen Trapper first came out, they were TOTALLY original. In fact, they were even too weird for me, but da** did they have some hipster appeal, with the pitchfork “Best New Music” slot and an official endorsement from Stephen Malkmus (or as official as Stephen Malkmus gets about anything in life, which is obviously questionable).
Looking on iTunes, I was surprised to find that “Rock and Roll (Was Made for You)” isn’t actually a cover song. Apparently it’s original… let’s just say we’re gonna take a structuralist approach to this listening, though. There are only two possibilities for why a band would want to play a song this awful. One, every girl in the room is like sopping wet for you, and you’re afraid one of their boyfriends is gonna break a bottle and stab you with it after the show.
The other, and this is (a tad) more likely, is that this music is finally more novelty than it is vinyl (perhaps related to why we haven’t heard from one Mr. Malkmus in so long, and when we did, it was in the form of an incredibly experimental and dissonant contribution to Battle Hymns). Also, keep in mind this show is taking place in a record store, and indeed, this band sounds like they’re afraid of being too loud. But then, I’m from the Midwest, the land of The Stooges. Grunge only happened as a reaction to them… these Northwesterners are cowboys through and through… or at least Eric Earley is trying to sell the whole thing as that much. My score for just the Live at Third Man Records would probably be a solid, smack-dab one, which is fewer than the amount of women Eric Earley will sleep with tonight, doing this cowboy/imitating-Jackson-Browne-and-Bruce-Springsteen thing.
I was ultra jazzed to happen back on to Live in Portland, however, which as far as I know is only available on bandcamp. I was lucky a couple years back to be following the band on facebook and get wind of this release. They were even cool — they “liked” my comment when I complimented them on pronouncing “Fletcher” from the “underdog” album American Goldwing, by leading things off with a ripping version of it. The funny thing is, what was probably my favorite site at the time, cokemachineglow.com, ripped into American Goldwing, calling it like formulaic classic rock. For one thing, when the Trapper are at their best they’re way more resemblant of like GOOD classic rock like Badfinger or Big Star than they are of like Foghat and Foreigner, or something. “Classic rock” is a bit reductive — or it WAS at the time. Fast forward to the abysmal Live at Third Man Records, and we certainly have a different story. God, I really hope everyone at that show was on peyote or something.
Seeing as I’m listening to Live at Portland AFTER Third Man like a dumba**, I really wish they’d open with Ugly Kid Joe’s “I Hate Everything about You.” Unfortunately, their songs just SOUND like crappy old faux-rockabilly covers, they aren’t actually covers. Egh, I guess I’ll just press on. That’s what us hard-working, blue-collar bloggers do. Right away, with Live in Portland and its opener “Fletcher,” they’re actually not playing their instruments like a bunch of sissies, and immediately, there’s a liquid, translucent, trippy quality to the electric guitar, even reeling in some distortion on the solo. These guys are finally rocking like the sonic technicians I thought they were. Also, there’s probably about 20 more mikes on the drums for this show. But then, they were freakin’ SELLING Live at Third Man Records on Sub Pop’s website, so I thought I’d sound off about it.
With track two, “Astronaut,” we once again have the stupid fake cowboy accent from Eric Earley (unless like is this guy actually from San Antonio or something? They’ve got a song called “Texaco,” which makes me think of Steve Earle)… but the instrumentation’s superiority is coming full circle, with a funky, vaguely harpsichord-sounding synth kicking things off with the vocal, to set the base chord progression. The song starts rocking full-out halfway through… and to be honest, I’ve still yet to hear a song that doesn’t sound exactly like Led Zeppelin’s “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” but he**, I ain’t complainin’.
“Thirsty Man,” clocking in as it does at nine minutes, would seem to stretch the band’s outer ability to retain an audience’s attention. Intriguingly, the bouncy, funky guitar line chimes in approximating In the Dark-era Grateful Dead — and the chord progression is refreshingly dark compared to those other perky numbers, residing somewhere around “Shakedown Street” territory. What have we here… dueling synth solos! This taking me back to my old acid krautrock days (I don’t have old acid krautrock days, but such a thing would be a great precursor to this experience of sorcery). Halfway through you realize this is a full-out jam-band revival, as Eric Earley unleashes this stupefying solo full of these seemingly impossible arpeggios — in fact it’s like there are two guitarists playing, like the Beastie Boys’ vocal interplay in songs like “3 MC’s and 1 DJ,” or something. Eh, I’m spacin’ out. Just listen, and enjoy, and sorry I’m late on these.

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