Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The video for Blitzen Trapper's newest single, "Black River Killer," features a studio audience of a talk show all wearing a version of the same horrible mask - one of composure mixed with a sadistic smirk and gray, penetrating eyes. They sit stoically through the early parts of the killer's story, a plight that is influenced almost solely by his inability to overrule the quick work of the devil and his insatiable hunger for merciless, random murder. When the explanation is finally out, unraveled like a roll of carpeting - a history of needless, remorseless violence that cannot be slowed or dissuaded - they aggressively call for his head -- the same kind of violence to be done to the killer that he inflicted with knives and pistols. The audience is angry and thirsty for what it would call justice, but what the scene, full of whooping and crazed body language, really goes to show is the same natural inclinations for homicidal tendencies in all human beings. Some are just more "right" than others. Some of these tendencies are just looked at as the less crooked kinds, but it's a fine line that one only tends to see when they've been pushed. Portland's Blitzen Trapper find many different ways to bring us into its wild mountain nation - one that now, even after the Daytrotter record-breaking fourth visit here, still holds new looks, insights and dimensions to explore. It's a thick underbrush of vegetation which has grown over the countless rifle shell casings that unleashed the slugs that felled men and buffalo, whatever was out there moving and could be eaten by the scrawny prospectors and settlers. It's an underbrush that grows out of soil that been piled upon itself, layer-by-layer of compost and decaying carcasses, covering up arrowheads chiseled out of soft rocks by the natives who lived their previously. It's a land that does not exist on its clear boundaries - of men who have it all placed and agreed upon - but as a place that drifts like the map-less and still remains true to very earthy ideals, the kinds that sometimes come back and bite you. They play into the recognized polarities that lie as bedmates in the souls of every living soul, representing the killer/survivor and the civilized/broken. Most find that over time they've either tamed or replaced the urges and the desirous lusts for mixing it up, for stirring trouble and for living so ruggedly and without limitations that they are nearly outcasts from the buttoned-down society that prides itself of sleek horsepower, plastic and its own material greed. Lead singer and songwriter Eric Earley upends this precarious, swinging pendulum and throws it out there like a pair of dice for the intervening fates to sort out in nearly every song on each of the band's incredible albums. We encounter so many unstable men, wrestling with the most natural forces that they have brewing within their ribcages, knocking against their stomachs and spines and trying to reconcile them with this updated way that people are supposed to live. It just may not be the best way for all. Some people are better off dealing with their imbalances way out yonder, beyond the city limits, with no one else to talk to but the ghosts and the hawks, maybe the livestock and the raccoons if they're lucky. They'd prefer the simple existence that doesn't tense them up into wrecking balls, but does make their palms and shoulder muscles as hard as pavement and statues. The wild man can still lurk inside, not really suppressed or hidden, just not loaded, not cocked, not anxious to reach out and meet anyone. Sometimes things get complicated when the mountain men meet midtown and the smell of straw and wood smoke fades to exhaust and depression.
Blitzen Trapper Official Site
Sub Pop Records