If you are a fan of the Gaslight Anthem or Frank Turner, Trapper Schoepp’s Primetime Illusion is for you.
Hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Schoepp released the incredibly diverse album that is Primetime Illusion last Friday. The record was produced by Patrick Sansone (Wilco), and it does not disappoint. It also has a song that Schoepp co-wrote with Bob Dylan on it – making it worth the listen even more so.
After being stuck in a rut since his 2016 release Rangers & Valentines, this album is Schoepp’s comeback. It is a nearly flawless one in terms of storytelling at that.
Listeners should also be aware that Schoepp recently taught himself how to play the piano after obtaining a baby grand in late 2016. For previously not being able to play the instrument, Primetime Illusion contains many tracks with piano backings performed by Schoepp.
Opening track “Shakedown” is a good example of Schoepp flexing his newfound piano skill coupled with catchy, but astonishingly rough vocals. With its likely-to-get-stuck-in-your-head ba-ba-ba lyrics, it sets the stage for a memorable, and arguably, political record. “It’s Over” goes on to utilize the same remarkable repetition with its do-do-do vocals. Let us also not forget the amazing verses on this track about dogs and a struggling American society.
Varying genres are definitely something to note on this record on top of its political themes. From slowed down “Sleight of Hand” and piano-laced “Drive-thru Divorce,” to the aggressive Sister Double Happiness cover of “Freight Train,” it is hard to get bored with this album. The guitar solo on “Freight Train” is for sure going to wake up future concert-goers, and the piano is just amazing on “Drive-thru Divorce.”
Overall, Primetime Illusion has a lot going for it. Even so, its diversity is a double-edged sword. “TV Shows” feels much too out of place. It comes off as being forced, and it has an odd Western vibe. Sorry, Schoepp, this one just does not fit in well despite its lyrics bringing awareness to the sheeple of the nation.
On the plus side, “Backup Plan” echoes the styles of Buddy Holly and Frank Turner. The song’s timing is great, and its soft beginnings make for an excellent buildup track. ‘If All My Nines Were X’s” goes on to carry the same Frank Turner-esque tone with some Gaslight Anthem-leaning instrumentals and vocals.
Going back to political themes, the first single off the record, “What You Do to Her” has a very clear sexual harassment call-out. With the backing vocals of Nicole Atkins and some intense harmonica playing, this track is probably the most politically-charged piece on the album. It has an insane instrumental solo section on it as well; these solos can be heard throughout the record.
Primetime Illusion’s concluding tracks “My Comrade” and “On, Wisconsin” closes the diverse record with even more pleasing variations. “My Comrade” nicely comes across as a slightly heavier track concerned with somebody being lost at sea, but it is not overwhelming. The album is then finished off with Dylan’s and Schoepp’s collaboration, which is waltz-like and homesick “On, Wisconsin.”
An overall solid album Primetime Illusion is. It will be one to go down as a milestone in Schoepp’s career.
You can purchase and stream the record here. Show Schoepp some love. He is definitely one to watch.
Standout Tracks: “Drive-Thru Divorce,” “Freight Train,” and “If All My Nines Were X’s”
Freelance Writer and Photographer