It’s a solid, well played and thoughtful, countryrock album. No songs about men turning into wolves. No weird genre hopping. It’s a bit like the kind of album a band delivers to a major label after years of being on an indie
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It’s nine years since Blitzen Trapper released “Furr” – the album that thrust them into the spotlight after five years of cult status. On “Wild and Reckless” the band have chosen to have a backward glance at that breakthrough… although it’s not quite that simple.
One wouldn’t think that Blitzen Trapper are the kind of band that would write a musical. But then again, we all had a double take when we heard about the “American Idiot” stage show, didn’t we? And that seems to be doing OK. “Wild and Restless” started off as exactly that – a combination of old and new BT material, aimed at the stage. The album delivers twelve new tracks with themes of nostalgia, youth and, erm, science fiction, but they’ve bought some new, loud electric guitars, grabbed a bunch of John Cougar Mellencamp records and gone a bit “classic rock” too.
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Early in their careers, the band, possibly while searching for “their sound” had a go at everything – folk-rock, indie, rock, blues –anything was fair game. Well, it looks like they’ve finally settled on a kind of alt-rock, blue collar, Tom Petty approach. It suits them, but if you’re looking for something angular on “Wild and Reckless”, then you’ll have to make do with the tape collages at the start of “Forever Pt2” and “No Man’s Land” as a reminder of the pre –“Furr” band. “Anthemic” is the order of the day and the choruses are bigger and bolder than before.
It starts off in fine style – the one-two punch of “Rebel” and “Wild and Reckless” is a hard act to follow. “Rebel” owes a debt to Mercury Rev’s “Goddess on a Highway”, but that can only be a good thing, right? Both tracks have a country swing to them, which should ensure that these tunes are on heavy rotation in all those US states where whiskey is drunk in larger measures. “Stolen Hearts” adds some lonesome harmonica into the mix for a little Dylanesque authenticity, although it’s actually closer to “River” era Springsteen. A few of these tracks have -whisper it – a little bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd about them too. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised, especially if you’ve ever seen their faithful and reverent cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”, on YouTube. These guys are surely too young to have been listening to rock radio in the early seventies?
There’s just enough edgy material on “Wild and Restless” to keep it to the right side of Bon Jovi (although that’s a very Bon Jovi album title…). “Joanna” is an earnestly strummed, confessional ballad with a strong narrative and “Forever Pt1” starts with lush, Beach Boys vocals before trailing off into almost gospel territory. It’s lovely. The album finishes with “Wind Don’t Always Blow” which sounds like Dylan jamming with the Jayhawks. That track alone shows how far they’ve come since their self-published, lo-fi albums at the start of the millennium.
“Wild and Restless” is a surprising Blitzen Trapper album in as much as it’s not very surprising at all. It’s a solid, well played and thoughtful, countryrock album. No songs about men turning into wolves. No weird genre hopping. It’s a bit like the kind of album a band delivers to a major label after years of being on an indie. Only this is their third release in a row for Lojinx. Maybe their next album will be a skate-punk opera based on the life of Billie-Joe Armstrong. What a minute…that just might work…