[INDIE POP] The release of Wild Mountain Nation, Blitzen Trapper's third album, means it's time to figure out exactly where the hell this band is. The psych-pop septet's been at the ready for seven years now—bags packed, fond farewells composed—to be Portland's next big export: Press love, prime South by Southwest exposure in '06, a solid spot in WW's 2005 Best New Band poll, all-too-perfect hipster style and music rooted in infectious indie-pop all point to the next national firecracker. But somehow it hasn't happened...yet.
Maybe the band's current tour with "rock saviors" the Hold Steady will be the needed catalyst: Blitzen Trapper puts on a gloriously fun live show, and it's tough to say whether Wild Mountain Nation could do it alone—not that the album's necessarily bad. It's another interesting case of musical schizophrenia for the band, taken to a new, spit-shined, extreme-pop level and dirtied up with cartoonish country twang and flings with noise. It makes for 13 occasionally compelling, hook-overloaded songs; one gets the feeling it's an all-or-nothing sprint for repute.
The album starts with a few nice "What the fuck?" moments during frantic noise-romp "Devil's A-Go-Go," in which the opening bars of discordant guitar reach straight back to Confusion Is Sex-era Sonic Youth. (Hell, it might even be the same freaky tuning.) The track then goes into a few minutes of energetic, refined garage-pop full of "oooohs" and "whoooos" that break in the middle for a little guitar action that sounds borrowed straight from the Three Amigos soundtrack. Following that, it breaks down completely into a chopped, disintegrating compendium of every vaguely Led Zeppelin-y thing that came before it.
The following, title track is an absolutely over-the-top pop wonder (or virus) with a choral hook so fierce it literally looks like a hook if mapped out on paper (seriously, try it). This hyper-pop business gets really old, though, on "Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant's Hem," which revels in horribly unnecessary guitar noodling, "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah" refrains and cutesy keyboards. Overall, Wild Mountain Nation's sunny jangles should appease the Brian Wilson-worshipping Elephant Six cult (file it next to the Minders). But once summertime wanes around Portland, the album will get old real quick. Luckily for Blitzen Trapper, the sun is always shining on a record shop somewhere.
Wild Mountain Nation