Invoking the ’60s
Blitzen Trapper’s modern take on classic Americana
by Sara Brickner
Portland band Blitzen Trapper makes music directly descended from Neil Young, Dylan and Cream, which is why it’s popular not only with adult hippies’ children but their parents as well. These comparisons run rampant in this recent folk revival but are especially appropriate for Blitzen Trapper. At their very best, the band’s songs carry the kind of emotional weight iconic songs like “My My Hey Hey” or “Like A Rolling Stone” do. “Furr,” the title track from the Sub Pop folk band’s fourth release (and first for Sub Pop), is probably the best example of this. Like the middle-aged singles that continue to dominate classic rock radio, “Furr” is a timeless testament to the enduring power of American folk music. It depends almost solely on a simple guitar and harmonica solo, relying on its melody alone, because — like the very best songs — it doesn’t need much else. Live, Blitzen Trapper’s big sound feels historic, like you’ve just time-traveled back to 1972 to see CSNY in their prime.
Still, there’s a reason why Blitzen Trapper isn’t as well-known as their labelmates the Fleet Foxes. The band has never made an album that’s consistently stunning, start to finish. Yes, they’ve written some of the most profoundly affecting songs to come out of the past decade, but in the band’s quest to be as prolific as possible, Blitzen Trapper has yet to release an album in which all of the songs are as stop-you-in-your-tracks incredible as, say, “Furr” or “Preacher’s Sister’s Boy.” In fact, the band’s most consistently excellent release, essentially a re-released tour EP called Black River Killer, is entirely comprised of previously-released songs. And yet, it is the first Blitzen Trapper release that is unequivocally excellent, start to finish. Were the gentlemen of Blitzen Trapper to edit themselves and only release an album once they’ve written 10 songs that are on par with, say, “Furr” or “Black River Killer,” they might have a shot at becoming as famous as the vintage artists to which their music is constantly compared.
Blitzen Trapper, Wye Oak. 8 pm Friday, Sept. 25. McDonald Theatre • $14 adv., $17 door