Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing (Music Review)

American Goldwing cover

Blitzen Trapper - American Goldwing

When I reviewed two previous Blitzen Trapper albums, I focused largely on the significant changes between each one. The way I saw it, there was an unusual but linear path from their weird stoner anthems to folk and classic rock, and then to a more complex folk sound. With American Goldwing, though, it becomes apparent that the band is actually circling around a larger territory. So large, in fact, that it took four albums to stake out the region. This resurrects the classic rock influences that Destroyer Of The Void largely dropped, with guitar riffs and white funk dominating.

The big surprise with American Goldwing is just how straightforward it is. While Blitzen Trapper’s lyrics are typically circumspect and seemingly made for our post-ironic time, this sincerely mimics past styles. Most of these songs would have sounded perfectly normal blaring from a muscle car’s speakers in the mid-70’s, preferably with the open road of the album cover stretching ahead. (The spaceman on the road might have seemed a little out of place, though. The band hasn’t given up all their affectations.)

This style fits the band naturally. In fact, the first three tracks all sound like they could have been chart-toppers in their target era: “Might Find It Cheap” is a cleverly-worded call to the men out their to respect the ladies, and “Fletcher” recalls the danger and potential that seemed to buzz behind lazy youthful days. “Love the Way You Walk Away”, a regretful ballad intended to show a rock band’s softer side, is the album’s highlight. The creative energy that could have been used to write inscrutable lyrics is instead directed towards finding a new perspective for these traditional topics. Though the songs stay within well-tread territory, they never feel like retreads of old hits.

A few songs stretch on a little aimlessly, giving the impression that Blitzen Trapper was keeping themselves restrained in order to fit their chosen style. Perhaps that is why “Street Fighting Sun” is such a standout track: Coming near the end of American Goldwing, it merges the funky classic rock with all the modern weirdness of the band’s last couple albums. It would have been a good song on their earlier works, but here it sounds positively therapeutic. It’s a reminder that Blitzen Trapper can’t be tied down, even by their own design.

Grade: B

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