Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Tonally, the rolling and blissfully enchanting thought of a utopian world - where birds' wings are never clipped, bears get enough sleep, all teeth are as white and unchipped as stars, the air's clean as a whistle, bills don't exist, all basic wants are inclusive, temperature variance is minimal and always on the friendly side - feels like a syrup faucet, sweet dreams dripping from the spout in an unending, streaming tumble. It's something that never feels all that unattainable in words and often, the only people who can make these circumstances work are starving artists who have no issues with living meagerly, scraping to get by as they travel the world for most days of the year and then holing up in some little junk box out in the middle of the last pieces of great and wild territory that have survived from being tramped upon by the machines of unloving grace.
A Walden is a far-fetched fairy tale, an impossible wonder for most everyone - just that chance to sever ties with the demands of societal expectation is hard to digest and act upon. It's easier to fall in line, have that route to the office well-worn and programmed into the automatic, natural settings and to nod that you'll get all of those assignments done in an orderly fashion, right away and up to the appropriate standards.
This has everything to do with Oregon's Blitzen Trapper, a sextet that plays by the rules (or non-rules) that could have been set forth in the outtakes of the dictations that Thoreau might have made in his exploration of living exclusively in the simplistic, specifying what seclusion and a connection with the free spiritedness of pure living can do for a man who refuses to be drawn into the typical lyrical and encompassing outline. Blitzen Trapper, its latest record Wild Mountain Nation and new songs that have come since all point to a delicate unbalance of perfection and a free-wheeling tale-spin that could emanate from the principles of a utopia gone mad. Even if it a utopia (and somewhere in the beauty of this band's ecstatic lushness and brilliance is one) works, there would be some run-off - some flies in the ointment and some dissent. Even in an untouched setting, where perfection is closer at hand than elsewhere, there are hunters and their prey. The falcons and hawks still swoop in, a big bird awakening in the tree boughs still disturbs someone's sleep and the always nervous field mouse has to remain always on-guard against the deceptive, wise old owl who wants nothing more than to swallow it whole.
The nation that the group looks to for its inspiration is that untouched sunset that upon closer inspection is really a blaze gone out of control - there are houses and kids on fire, gravestones overturned and weird, contained riots happening in the streets. It's a bit Wild West and a bit wishful thinking at the same time as the experiences described within these shambolic and countrified delights are told with a wry grin, a wink and a rebellious glint in the half-peeled eyes of the on-lookers. It feels like a Sturgis that has refused to be touched by commercialism, when the Hell's Angels choppered through town, raised their signature hell (breaking noses, beer bottles, slashing tires, frightening non-club members just by being) and left - these songs do. They follow the track of the philosophical riders though, not the brutes, weighing in on the pleasures of showing off plenty of chest hair, snapping off a couple shots of celebratory ammunition into the empty skies along with some whooping and swigging and drinking the beer that they made themselves.
Wild Mountain Nation and its various pronouncements of resurrection in its newly formed cousins (see "Stolen Shoes" and "Preacher's Sister's Boy") are sweltering and sometimes cuddly remarks about all things considered and revealed. These are gravel roads that we travel on daily. They can pull us into the ditches should we become careless. They get soft, they get hard, they ripple and change. The sun and the people below it can be bitches, spiteful and angry - the same goes for all of us, sadly - and if we're not paying attention, we can either find ourselves nursing a nasty, unexpected sunburn or existing without a cushion to fall on, hearing an echo with every call out. This is utopia for the weary and doubting and it's at the very least excitable.