[5 February 2014]
The garage-rock stylings of the Traps’ Boom Pow Awesome Wow is not a record for everyone. Even on the Soundcloud stream of the title track, someone has commented thusly: “Is this a joke?” And it’s hard to not take this album as a joke – and it has nothing to do with the music itself. The reason is that it is so poorly recorded, with the sound pushed so clearly far into the red, making the whole thing sound jarring and distorted, you have to pretty much turn down the volume to appreciate this album, otherwise listening to it might make your ears bleed from the pure fuzziness of sound. Indeed, the material’s source is a CD-R EP and some material scattered around cassette tape, both things not known for their audiophile quality, but the whole album might as well have been recorded by an ‘80s boombox deep inside of a garbage can with a toy microphone outside of the garage this material was being played in. Put it another way, Boom Pow Awesome Wow and its lack of fidelity makes Hüsker Dü’s Land Speed Record sound like Steely Dan’s Aja. What’s more, it seems like the Traps are no longer an entity: they were a trio from Providence, Rhode Island, and were active about a decade ago. So why are we hearing about them now?
Well, it turns out that the band toured back in the day with the Coachwhips, John Dwyer’s old band – this being John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees, of course – and the outfit wound up covering “Boom Pow Awesome Wow”, the song. Dwyer is releasing the album through his Castle Face Records imprint, so there’s got to be some love for some old fashioned garage rock in the equation, if not a band he shared stages with. And, to be sure, there’s much gnarly fun to be had on this album if one wants to make a Captain Beefheart meets the Velvet Underground comparison. The guitars scrape, the vocals moan, and the cymbal clash in the best blues rock kind of way. I have a soft spot for naive and abrasive bands such as Half Japanese, so I tended to really get behind the Traps. However, once again, this is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and, truthfully, as much as the low fidelity is a charm, it is also a distraction and really undercuts the power of these songs. It could be argued that this is a record a tad too poorly produced, and the sound too far amplified to be taken seriously. Still, for those who love listening to stuff that sometimes resembles static and white noise sonically, Boom Pow Awesome Wow generally lives up to the third word in its title: awesome.