Blitzen Trapper is unquestionably a band we can label as “experimental” and their new album, Wild Mountain Nation features practically every brand of rock underneath the sun. It’s a refreshing take on rock and roll and everything that this great style of music has to offer; it’s never derivative or overdone but rather, interesting and smoothly impressive.
The romping, grinding “Miss Spiritual Tramp” is probably the most extreme thing on here. The guitars slash and bite with an intense force, the drums are on top of the mix and the guitar at the end is pure joy. This is followed by the unique and dexterous, “Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant’s Hem.” It’s mostly an instrumental track that puts the guitar and keyboards at the front, while the drums pound away behind it. The only vocals are supplied by the band and they are only yelps of “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah…” And these aren’t bad songs either, after the great trio of songs that open the album; some would call the two aforementioned tunes, throwaways. But for me at least, they are invigorating kicks of life. The band purposely combines the harder moments in rock music for further emphasis.
Like I mentioned earlier, everything is covered on here. The album is produced in a lo-fi manner but this doesn’t take anything away from the music. There is the country, bluegrass feel of “Wild Mtn. Jam,” the edgy punk rock of “Devil’s A-Go-Go,” the dream-like hard rock of “Wild Mountain Nation” and the light, easy rock of “Futures & Folly” complete with its pleasant piano flourishes, vocal harmonies and Oriental touches.
One of the true highlights is “Sci-Fi Kid” which follows more of a form than the other songs on here. The sounds are reminiscent of space travel and the music is laid-back and easy-going. The smart instrumental breakdown towards the end of the song is fitting with its synthesized hooks and high-pitched vocals.
Another high spot is the psychedelic trance that is “Hot Tip/Tough Cub.” There is a lot of reverb and the vocals get lost in the hazy, slamming instrumentation. Some sections feature off the wall sounds that are nice effects before it jumps back in with a hard, edgy beat. The song ends with a flurry of noises that resemble the sound of blurry feedback from your speakers. Right after this, “The Green King Signs” is another song in the same vein of the opener, its straight-ahead rock that isn’t too precise but sill chugs right along.
The ballad on here is “Summer Town” and it’s sequenced ingeniously because of its suggestive lyrics of “I only wanted to be used and not misplaced.” The guitars are unplugged, a flute and harmonica appear and the drums are completely absent for most of the song. It’s a nice touch because the band showcases their softer side. “Murder Babe” arrives with some more hard rock and the penultimate song, “Country Caravan” hits the 70s-rock style well. It’s a great bluesy stomp that illustrates the band’s ability to nicely layer their voices. The last song, “Badger’s Black Brigade” ends the album with some muddy production and a slow-jam approach.
Everything on this album is pretty magnificent. What Blitzen Trapper accomplished is no small task—they never allowed the quality to suffer and this is certainly a “wild” listen. A lot of it is influenced by some of the greatest rock minds of all time but it’s never unoriginal nor boring. Wild Mountain Nation keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time and it’s a fine piece of music.