Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Joel and Ethan Coen have a motion picture ready to screen soon, based on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis, which already turned out an Academy Award-winning picture in 1969, starring best actor winner John Wayne and Glen Campbell, all going by the name of "True Grit." Set in Arkansas and Indian territory, the plot is based on a drunken Texas Ranger and a U.S. Marshal helping a young girl named Mattie Ross track down her father's murderer. With just one scene that goes like this: "With that, Quincy brought the bowie knife down on Moon's cuffed hand and chopped off four fingers which flew up before my eyes like chips from a log. Moon screamed and a rifle ball shattered the lantern in front of me and struck Quincy in the neck, causing hot blood to spurt on my face. My thought was: I am better out of this." A scene such as this one is something that makes Blitzen Trapper lead singer Eric Earley salivate, the dizziness of such Old Western problems and operating principles so vivid. It provides him with the trappings of something bordering on the Biblical. The man from the Pacific Northwest might be 200 years old at heart, drawing his inspiration from such colorful lawlessness of the Gold Rush times, when not many men could be trusted because no matter which direction you turned your back to, everyone behind you - at all times - carried a well-oiled pistol - and there was nary a hesitation to use it, should there be even the slightest cause for concern, a touch of hunger or greedy need or just revenge, which was at its most popular stage in history, the quickest emotion.
Earley and the Trapper live in a pre-modern land of homesteaders and a land where people could easily go missing and never be found again. The band's latest album, "Destroyer of the Void," takes us into this land of memorable characters living through such times that would never remember a worthless, faceless face - just another body behind some odor, some dirty hands and some scraggly limbs. They are prideful men, family men some of them, building their homes - enough for the wife and the brood - with their own hands, with the wood taken from trees that they felled themselves. They are of wanderers from Wichita, Kansas, broken girls who are just found dead in lonely towns and in need of a pine box and some straw in their heads, after hard and short lives, masked by a ritual application of cheap perfume and stubbornness. Earley sings of such a person in "Evening Star," giving us this, "You need some stone-washed jeans and a time machine/To take you back to that railroad track/Where you first took flight/In the morning light/So take me back to the first romance/When you made your stand/You were hand-in-hand/With the black-eyed angel of the evening star," and we see that such an expiration was just the unremarkable dealing of the inevitably shitty final hand. There is an unbearable sadness that accompanies much of the new album, more so than on records of the past, though there's no denying that even in the perkiest of moments, the band is sweet on that sadness and never thinks of it as a cur. They never want to outrun it, but are more interested in seeing what that sadness takes with its coffee and how it lies its head to rest at night.
Blitzen Trapper's Official Site
Sub Pop Records