Before people start bombarding me with hate mail, I just wanna say that I’ve seen Blitzen Trapper twice and liked them well enough both times. Hell, I even enjoyed 2008’s Furr quite a bit, though it’s been more than a year since I’ve listened to it. Yes, there was a time when I was more than a little captivated by the Portland band with the stupid name and their hippie-dippy blend of the few things I like about Pink Floyd with nearly all of the (several) things I like about the Band. So I didn’t come to this year’s Destroyer of the Void with the intention of hating it at all. I thought I’d at least find it charming.
But no. I hate it. Somewhere, what I thought was a winning blend of what I like about Pink Floyd and what I love about the Band became a dull, meandering blend of everything I don’t like about Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and that whole Laurel Canyon scene. Only L.A. could crawl that far up its own ass about band like the Eagles) and everything I loathe about Phish (which is, well, everything about Phish). I wanted to go back and listen to Furr again to see if I could figure out where Blitzen Trapper went wrong, but I’m too bored to bother. Destroyer of the Void is jam band hippie bullshit and that’s about as worked up as I can get about it because it basically bores me to sleep. I just spent ten minutes watching Hüsker Dü and Pulp videos on YouTube to avoid listening to Destroyer of the Void one more time.
Now I want to be clear about one thing: I don’t hate hippies. Next to hipsters, hippies are the most popular group of people to hate on the internet and the simliarities don’t end there. Many people think that lots of other people are hipsters or hippies and yet no one can really say definitively what one is. It’s an empty name upon which judgmental fucks can hang their hatred. I’ve been called a hipster and a hippie before and the only proper response I can come up with to either accusation is to not give a rat’s ass what you call me. But people do hate hippies and when I suggest that Blitzen Trapper might be partly to blame for that, I’m not advocating the hatred of hippies or even the use of the word “hippie”. Quite the opposite, in fact; I’m afraid easily angered people will hear Destroyer of the Void, think it’s the soundtrack to some kind of new hippie movement, go to a Blitzen Trapper show, and start killing kids whose only crime is questionable taste in music (okay, and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute).
The first time I saw Blitzen Trapper, they had some pretty good country-rock songs and some just totally fucking weird songs that were interesting, even if they weren’t anything else. On Destroyer of the Void, the songs that fail don’t even have the good graces to be weird and the songs that “succeed” don’t equal anything they’ve done before. The title track to Wild Mountain Nation is far better on its own than anything on Destroyer of the Void. I guess at some point in their history, Blitzen Trapper stood at a crossroads: one path led to a career on the fringes as weird space-hippies, more likely to soundtrack a clips reel from Cowboy Bebop than to win a Grammy. The other path led to a certain amount of stoner cachet and a slightly more successful career rattling off dull songs about basically fuckall and making me really wanna go back and listen to Blonde On Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited until I forget that Blitzen Trapper ever existed in the first place. Needless to say, Blitzen Trapper took the latter path. But there’s still time to change course.
There’s nothing explicitly bad about Destroyer of the Void. But there’s also nothing remotely exciting about it and 2010 has been way to exciting of a year, musically speaking (Breaking News: Pulp just got back together!!!), for me to put up with the same old rehashing of 70s music that bled the vitality out of better 60s music (think of it this way: in the 1960s, we had Bob Dylan. In the 1970s, we had Don Fucking Henley. Although we did get Tom Waits there at the end. So I guess it was worth it). When I’ve got the National’s High Violet and LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening within my grasp, why should I reach for Destroyer of the Void? And hell, if I want some sort of newish take on an old sound, I’ll put on the Mynabirds. Because Laura Burhenn knocks it out of the park, playing country/gospel/soul with so much conviction that she kinda transcends the genre.
The thing that really pisses me off about this album is that it’s not interesting enough for me to really tear it apart. If I listen to something really awful, like, I dunno, something by Metallica, there’s going to be enough going on over the course of the album for me to get worked up into a proper music snob rage. Destroyer of the Void, on the other hand, is like a guy who would say totally horrible stuff and piss you off and make you want to punch him in the face except he’s too stoned to get off the couch and actually do anything. So you can’t hate him; in fact, you only notice him when he passes out on the floor and you have to step over him to get to the kitchen.
Or, to put it another way, Destroyer of the Void is a lot like James Cameron’s Avatar: a lot of people (possibly hippies, though probably not as many as you think) like it but it’s not nearly as satisfying as any of the roughly one billion things it’s very clearly ripping off. Also, only a total stoner would try to convince you that either Avatar or Destroyer of the Void is some kind of transcendent work of art. But no matter what you think of Avatar or Destroyer of the Void, two things are true: 1) you shouldn’t run around indiscriminately calling people hippies (or hipsters for that matter) and 2) James Cameron has sex with inflatable dolls made entirely of hundred dollar bills.