Destroyer of the Void
Label: Sub Pop
If you are a musical genealogist with a fondness for ’70s super group rock, Blitzen Trapper’s newest release, Destroyer of the Void, is a family tree worth mapping. It only took me about 10 seconds to think I had this record nailed down. Clocking in with an eyebrow-raising running time of 6:17, the first (and title) track is a “Bohemian Rhapsody” doppelganger tricked-out with all the requisite elements: the slick, multi-layered a cappella introduction, the celebratory say-yes guitar anthems, the studded leather hard rock snarl hushing down to a wistful hymn. Okay, so a post-Queen Queen. Interesting. Got it. And then 10 seconds into track two I said my first “Wait… what?” This thing ping-pongs all over the place in a way that makes you very much want to pull out your copy of Aqualung and celebrate all things dusty and vinyl.
As it turns out (and as fans of Blitzen Trapper have come to expect), so many echoes from the past reverberate with renewed relevance on Destroyer of the Void. “Evening Star” is a laid-back Southern rock song that inherits its twangy hayseed poeticals from the likes of Tom Petty, while branching out in an entirely different direction is the plunky “Lover Leave Me Drowning,” a looping, string-accompanied arrangement that sounds like a B-side rarity from XTC’s Skylarking. Hankering for a little Jethro Tull? Try “Laughing Lover.” There are references buried within references, as the lyrics of “Destroyer of the Void” tell the story of a “wayward son” which, naturally, leads us back to Kansas. Elsewhere, we pick up threads of everything from ELO to Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles to CSNY. It’s not all a classic rock sampler – psych folk ingénue Alela Diane joins Eric Earley in “The Tree,” a campfire folk ballad about the metaphorical flora and fauna of a lovers’ landscape, a song well-suited for the finest of folk festivals and pagan wedding ceremonies.
While it may look on paper like an audiophile’s game of spin-the-bottle, Earley and his mates incorporate these influences into a meta-genre that is more flash forward than tribute band. It’s not 1974, it’s 2010’s 1974. And it’s not Eric Earley posing as Freddy Mercury, it’s just Eric Earley digging on the past and generally being awesome. After the unanimous acclaim for Wild Mountain Nation and the folksier Furr, it’s an ingenious premise for Blitzen Trapper to transmogrify their roots-rock into something familiar yet futuristic. Destroyer of the Void is at the same time grounded and out there; it’s a neat cosmic trick that makes for a fascinating album.