Blitzen Trapper - American Goldwing (Sub Pop)

Helia Phoenix takes a look at Blitzen Trapper's sixth studio record.

Released Sep 26th, 2011 via Sub Pop / By Helia Phoenix
Blitzen Trapper - American Goldwing (Sub Pop) I first came across the Portland group Blitzen Trapper back in 2005 when I was given their album Field Rexx to review. It was a breath of fresh air – mixing roots of country and heavy rock and giving them an off-kilter indie twist – described by vocalist Eric Earley as “space-aging technology and pawn shop Casio aplomb”. Field Rexx was one of my favourite albums of the 2000s.

Six records into their career, American Goldwing is a different beast entirely. The space-age technology and pawn shop Casio that gave their earlier music such kitsch appeal has moved aside. In its place, a paean to the band’s early influences using the more traditional instruments of guitars, drums, banjos, and harmonicas. Earley states that American Goldwing was his attempt at hazarding a true American nostalgia, and it’s true – you can definitely hear a Bob Dylan / Tom Petty vibe running throughout the long player.

The title of the album comes from Earley’s childhood – as a young child, he climbed up on his brother-in-law’s Honda Goldwing bike – an item that had become an object of obsessions and curiosity for the youngster. One day, after climbing on it and pretending to be driving down some lost American highway, the bike tipped over, trapping Earley underneath. “I laid there for a time, crying, feeling trapped, until my mother came and yelled at me and then pulled me out,” he said.

American Goldwing itself was written in the shadow of personal tragedy (a death that Earley says he can’t speak of) and was recorded just after Destroyer of the Void had been released. The band then went on tour for Destroyer of the Void – but Earley says he spent much of that tour knowing that the new ‘real’ Blitzen Trapper record was yet to come. That ‘real’ album was American Goldwing: an album in which the lyrical content explores many tropes of Americana (being trapped in a small town, the fine line between the rural and suburban settings, the discord between love and loss that occurs when you find yourself “taking it easy too long / sticking around this lonesome town.”)

The result? It’s a lot less experimental than their past offerings, and to my mind, it was these strange forays into the alt-weird that defined Blitzen Trapper as a band. Though they’ve broken away from that, American Goldwing is not a bad effort. If your boat is floated by that whole vein of nostalgic, rural-sounding Americana, chances are you’ll probably like this album – like it a whole lot.