Wild & Reckless

Kevin Quigley 3/24/17
I write this from the Starbucks next door to the Armory, where I saw Blitzen Trapper's new theatrical show, WILD & RECKLESS, last night. I'm still trying to sort the whole thing out, but let me tell you my impressions.

The new music is astounding. It's a natural progression from All Across This Land sonically; "No Man's Land" is a spiritual cousin to "Cadillac Road," for example, and "Wild & Reckless" feels like the double-A side to "All Across This Land." "Dance With Me" feels like one of those Springsteen songs that seem happy until you dig into the lyrics, especially the apocalyptic chorus and the doomed bridge. It's music you can move to as the world falls down.

Still, we get curveballs. "When I'm Dying" comes from the Eric Earley who wrote "Thirsty Man," country funk whose music is laid back but whose vocals feel urgent. There's also an unsettling menace to this one, as befits the title; it's the sort of feel we haven't gotten in a Blitzen song since "Black River Killer" (which also makes an appearance here). It's a jarring, thrilling juxtaposition that could only come at this part in the band's evolution.

The stage setup is literally awesome: reaching back into un-hinted-at depths, framed by video screens; the farthest projects the musical's title, broken and jittery. Broken street lamps and thick electric cords dominate the practical sets. When the band comes out, they're not necessarily Blitzen Trapper: most are characters playing roles as well as playing instruments. Brian Koch is The Scientist (his mad scientist obsessed with electricity reminded me of Charlie Jacobs, from Stephen King's Revival). Marty Marquis is The Professor. Menteer is Joe. There are two new characters/performers: Laura Carbonell as "The Girl" and Lief Norby as "The Dealer." 

One of the coolest aspects of this show is how many people get lead parts: Earley takes point on most songs, but everyone on stage but Van Pelt (crackerjack on bass) gets a crack at lead. Those who have seen a Blitzen Trapper concert know how Marquis and Koch harmonize beautifully with Earley, and occasionally (especially on covers) take lead; it's fantastic here to see Menteer expertly do the same, and to hear Carbonell recontextualize known songs like "Astronaut" as a personal journey of her character. I also loved the duets between Carbonell and Earley - almost like a less-operatic Meat Loaf number. That is indeed high praise.

The story is, a little surprisingly, positioned as a science-fiction story about nothing less than the end of the world. Apocalypse, though, seems like a by-product of this more personal story of doomed love and addiction. The SF aspect was unexpected and took me a minute to get into, but once I accepted the world of the story, it moved me quite a lot. Everything from the simple storytelling, to the 

The soundtrack is available at the show on both vinyl and CD. Three of the tracks are known: "Black River Killer" (from Furr) "Astronaut" (American Goldwing), and "Beneath the Hurricane" (Destroyer of the Void). The rest are brand-new and each are terrific. I especially like the title track, "Dance with Me," and "Wind Don't Always Blow," a thrilling mid-tempo number with a killer fuzz guitar solo and some of Earley's best vocals. With the exception of "Big Black Bird" on the Black River Killer EP, we haven't had a fast closing number on a Blitzen Trapper studio album since "Moving Minors Over County Lines" on Field Rexx. "Wind Don't Always Blow" is a terrific finale to a terrific show and album. 

I don't know what the future is for these songs. My guess is that after the show closes, the new songs will make their way to a longer album with even more new stuff, and be available widely. Until then, we've got these wild & reckless times. 

junglelove 3/25/17
Nice in depth review Kev - but don't sit on the fence - did you like it ? ;)
Kevin Quigley 3/25/17
Sorry I was so vague, junglelove! LOL LOL

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