The nice thing about a band like Blitzen Trapper is that, if you don’t like the album they just put out, you can just wait a couple of months and they’ll be dropping another one on us. This is kind of where I am with the band: I just had to tap out for that whole All Across This Land thing, especially after the unrivaled awfulness of VII. But in the meantime the band was treatin’ me right: two separate times they responded to something I did on Facebook, once “like”-ing my compliment on Live in Portland and another time actually posting a comment to my status update, which had me so giddy that I said something totally stupid. But that’s beside the point.
The point is: they are a BAND OF THE PEOPLE.
Is that a fake redneck accent Eric Earley sings in sometimes? Actually, I think he really talks like that, although the evidence from the opening banter of Live at Third Man Records is a tad bit inconclusive. So he was, ironically, given the prevailing sociological climate in non-music, “blessed with a drawl,” so to speak. Kurt Vile and J. Cole eat your heart out.
Before I get into the analysis of Wild and Reckless, I’d like to thank npr.org for making this sucka available on their site. It was a usual day for me today in that I once again attempted to browbeat Vinyl Me, Please out of existence, and now as I sit here and listen to Wild and Reckless on computer headphones, just as I did with the Beatles’ “Let it Be” in readying my list for that and with What’s Hope and Adams album just a second ago, I am having a great time.
“Rebel” opens and proceeds as stock Blitzen Trapper fare, but ensuing title track grabs a certain reins and powers us into a level of groove tenacity — as if the whole thing is glued together and centered on a newfound Stone Roses influence based on a certain wisdom, a certain light, a certain faith. Motion itself, whether the fugitive sprawl on “Black River Killer” or the “shake”-ing it on “Saturday Nite,” always seems to come proudly to the forefront within the band’s best material, whereas now, with “Wild and Reckless,” it’s even more rewarding to see that we continue the trend of the music itself having a certain kinetic energy about it, as if the destination is actual metaphysical, or spiritual.
“Forever, Pt. 1” is an idyllic one-minute piano interlude. The ensuing “Joanna,” then, will be something to remember for all listeners — Earley sounding more genuine than ever, constructing an ironic first-person tale from the perspective of a female homicide assailant (which differs for this reason in tone but not necessarily essentials from “Black River Killer”). The production here, as it was in “Forever Pt. 1” whose piano called to mind “The End of the Innocence” (one of my favorite songs), is pristine and beautiful, Earley’s acoustic guitar pronounced in gentle, undeniable ductility. The best part of this track, though, “Joanna” that is, is that it’s not cheesy at all — throughout the whole thing, nobody is really praised or vilified. The dominant thematic node at hand is just imagery — flashing, flailing imagery like what I discussed as being the behooving mechanism at work in “Penny Lane” in my recent list. “Joanna” has no chorus and no solo, just a brief harmonica flare, and a whole lot of quiet grit.
Now, I swear this is just a coincidence: all the while I can’t shut up about the Beatles just because of my foolish last post, what should “No Man’s Land” do but open with a one-minute segment of backward-tape, mysterious spoken-word sound bite and garish Expressionist strings, which nobody who’s heard the end of “A Day in the Life” will encounter without immediately directing their mind right there. “No Man’s Land” lassoes around a foolish chorus (“If you wanna know about no man’s land / Find a woman with a black Trans Am”), but by this time we’re so sodden with emotion that it quenches instead of parching, and similarly “Stolen Hearts” is a forgiving segue of very light feeling, which in this case is a simple reassurance to the lonelies, peppered by a beautiful solo of a guitar fed through some noodley pedal. “Dance with Me” is notable for generally not dragging the mood down, also showcasing the band’s amusing new inclination to bust into Clash-like power chord simplicity in the middle of a song, then letting that direct force inform the remainder of the proceedings and power the whole thing back up to full force. After a false start, then, “Love Live on” conjeals into that same familiar band territory of rockabilly groove, but here everything seems spliced with greater frequency — solos start and stop almost haphazardly, all of Earley’s effects pedals sounding like things the band hasn’t done before.
Why does Wild and Reckless work so well, despite that it’s so similar in style and in sentiment to their old stuff? Well, I’m going to give an answer which doesn’t really SOLVE the riddle here, but seems probably applicable nonetheless: they’re simply the best band on the planet, right now. Nobody else is this quintessentially American, this psychedelic, this fun-loving, this clear, or this FUNKY (“When I’m Dying” shockingly takes us on a groove that channels a type of Steely Dan which is more virile (luckily). “Sometimes I feel / Like I do when I’m dyin’”, speaks Earley on this song. So that’s where he gets all that cosmic, otherworldly energy from! Put in Wild and Reckless when you’re in the mood for some Blitzen Trapper. He**, it never tried to be anything else anyway.