For Portland, Oregon’s Blitzen Trapper to name its third album Wild Mountain Nation makes perfect sense — and not because of the country western textures (and one front-porch hoedown) that run through it. It’s a fitting title because the band has seceded from the quirky but lackluster indie of its previous two releases. On their new album, the members of Blitzen Trapper unfurl their flag and plant it deep into new territory. It’s a lawless country where styles and influences roam like the fabled deer and antelope: the disjointed but mathematical riffing of opener “Devil’s A-Go-Go”; the Big Star balladry of “Summer Town”; and the mock Southern rock of the infectious title track. It’s an intoxicating and playful mix of extremes, a kindred spirit of Olivia Tremor Control’s indiscriminating love of sugary ’70s AM pop and noisy experimentation.
Part of the album’s appeal is its lo-fi production values. These songs are clearly built on analog four-track recordings and then embellished with overdubs. It’s an approach to recording that naturally weaves dynamics and depth into the songs. One moment they cower in grayscale restraint: drums distantly clatter and crash, tape hisses. And then the music blossoms into vivid Technicolor as searing guitar suddenly erupts into the front of the mix. And the songs do erupt. The recordings are often blisteringly hot, exploding off the tape. Much of the album is filled with down-tempo acoustic numbers, but when the band pushes the levels, the songs sizzle with livewire energy.
The music’s scatterbrained enthusiasm is matched by a prankster’s take on lyrics. Many of the songs feature self-conscious classic-rock-isms. Lines like “Come out from the world and into my arms/ Like wind on the water we move,” from the title track make you think the band members have spent some quality time poring over their Heart lyric sheets. (As an aside, the band has a killer cover of “Crazy on You.”) That kind of intentional goofiness can grate, but in the end the detritus of “classic-rock poetry” is part and parcel for an aesthetic that grinds genre boundaries into pulp. Like all good rock music, though, lyrics cease to matter when they’re wrapped up in impeccably melodic songwriting. And, in that sense, “The Green King Sings” and “Sci-Fi Kid” are national treasures in Blitzen Trapper’s newly annexed territory.
“Wild Mountain Nation” MP3