Album Review: All Across This Land by Blitzen Trapper
Very Good, Based on 8 Critics
Paste Magazine - 82 Based on rating 8.2/10
Blitzen Trapper—vocalist and songwriter Eric Earley, lead guitarist Erik Menteer, bassist Michael Van Pelt, keyboardist Marty Marquis and drummer Brian Adrian Koch—has been a shifting beast since the raucous mystery of 2007’s breakthrough Wild Mountain Nation. Across seven previous albums, they have been cosmic tricksters, calm folkies, twang-funk wildmen, ragged psychedelic jammers, and to-the-bone rock ‘n’ rollers. All Across This Land steers away from much of the variety in the band’s catalog, settling into Blitzen Trapper’s tightest, most focused rock ‘n’ roll groove.
Heartfelt Americana on album number eight. From football under Friday night lights via dirt roads to tales of lost faith and lousy fathers, Blitzen Trapper’s eighth studio album finds the band earnestly ticking every box on the checklist marked ‘Americana clichés’, and then some..
No longer concerned with making even the slightest feint toward delicate indie rock sensibilities, Blitzen Trapper settle into the '70s on All Across This Land, their eighth album but only third since retooling themselves as hirsute troubadours. With its ten songs weighing in at a mere 40 minutes, All Across This Land feels designed to be spun on vinyl, with the first side setting like a sunset with "Lonesome Angel" and the second side crashing out of the gate with "Nights Were Made for Love," a song designed as both an open-road anthem and a third single to be serviced to AOR. Blitzen Trapper's period trappings -- which, outside of the occasional old-fashioned synth purloined from 1985, are meticulously accurate -- are the key to their charm, because they devote as much attention to their arrangements and productions as they do their songs.
With a kaleidoscopic style that keeps their music seamlessly flowing from one style and tempo to the next, listening to a Blitzen Trapper album can make for adventurous listening. Fifteen years in, this Portland-based collective—singer/guitarist Eric Earley, guitarist Erick Menteer, drummer Brian Adrian Koch, bassist Michael Koch, and multi-instrumentalist Marty Marquis—continue to churn out well-crafted country-influenced rock numbers with effortless ease. By this point, it’s reasonable to expect solidly constructed songwriting, eclectic musicianship, and a couple of unique wrinkles thrown in for good measure.
Charting the progress of Portland, Oregon quintet Blitzen Trapper since their first breakthrough eight or so years ago has been somewhat similar to tracing Modest Mouse’s lonesome crowded route from prodigious indie beginnings in the ‘90s to being the well-oiled touring machine they are today, putting out increasingly polished releases. Now on their eighth full length, their songs still have sturdy bones, and lead singer/songwriter Eric Earley and Co. are playing together tighter than ever, but an increase in professionalism rarely nurtures the element of surprise.
Portland's Blitzen Trapper isn't afraid to cater to those who yearn for a return to rock's golden age. Their success, however, can be largely credited to the fact that, at their best, they don't just regurgitate sounds by their favorite bands from the '70s, but rather synthesize a broad swath of influences into something that's comfortingly familiar without becoming slavishly redolent of any one artist or sound. Case in point: the opening title track of their eighth album, All Across This Land, which quickly ratchets up into a roiling froth of tightly synchronized dual-guitar riffage that recalls Lynyrd Skynyrd by way of the Black Crowes.
For certain intents and purposes, it’s useful to think of the (allegedly) halcyon days of the Sixties as the inaugural years of pop music as an art form. Recorded, radio-oriented music had existed for a long time before that, as had a host of landmark recording artists, but the Sixties is the decade that, for better or worse, is the most heavily referenced and romanticised. Plentiful historical work has been done to amplify, deconstruct, reinterpret and reframe these years.
The Upshot: Although there may be too much Springsteen hovering, it’s still the Oregon band’s most consistent effort. Over the course of eight albums, Oregon’s Blitzen Trapper have seamlessly moved their sound across genres – from rock to folk to alt country to indie pop. On their latest, All Across This Land, the band is finally back to a more rock-focused sound.