Portland, Oregon has always boasted a fine music
scene. But, except for artists like Sleater-Kinney and the late Elliott
Smith, rarely are its major
contenders heard outside of our little puddletown.
True, Portland isn't alone here; such is the case for
a host of cities across the nation. But given that
Portland is such a creative, cultural and liberal
mecca, one wonders why more of our artists aren't
screaming louder. Given that I've been here my entire
life, I'm pretty sure I've got the answer: Oregonians
are passive. Very, very passive.
We're so passive, we can't even merge onto a freeway.
No, no, you go ahead, we say to the angry,
honking Californian, waving them on the same way
Stumptown musicians duck the spotlight, feeling
undeserving, and leaving it to shine elsewhere. And the
result? A surprisingly talented bunch of unassuming
artists more concerned with their creative
journey than their destination. Prime example: the
very talented Blitzen Trapper.
But Blitzen Trapper have more than talent alone. They
have this quirky knack for merging traditionally
non-mergeable sounds and making it work. And well!
They cross country twang with spacey electronics,
classic indie rock vocals (think Stephen Malkmus meets
Isaac Brock) with R&B grooves. With a punk-rock sort
of defiance to rules, Blitzen Trapper have stumbled
upon an inventive way to make indie rock interesting
Opening rocker "Lux & Royal Shopper" most recalls
early Modest Mouse for its square, stop-start rhythms
and Brock-ish proclamations, while the dreamy "Summer
Twin" features chiming guitars, ethereal coos and
ballad-y melodies. Infiltrated by old-school dance
beats, the one-and-half-minute-long "Love I Exclaim!"
features distant raw guitar squiggles and distorted
vocals claiming, and rightfully so, "Love brings the
body down." The rhythm lines on the chugging, oddball
"Cold Gold Diamond" stamp like a kindergartner
learning to count as the tempos move between
lazy and speedy. The emotional,
touching "Asleep for Days" is colored with the haze of
the steel guitar and trickling keys, while the
aptly-titled "Dirty Pearls" is a raw, gritty Delta
get-down you'd have once expected to hear on some Mississippi back porch.
Finding a band as great, and as unknown, as Blitzen Trapper makes you wonder
other diamonds we're hiding in
our rain-soaked rough. Stay tuned, I'll keep you
posted. Just don't tell too many folk we're a little
shy out here in Oregun (not Ore-gone).