Next story: The Soft Boys - Can of Bees/Underwater Moonlight
Destroyer - Kaputt
by Donny Kutzbach
He’s long stood in the wings as the “secret weapon” in Canadian superpop collective the New Pornographers, waiting for his chance to dose the scene with his undeniable wit and mastery. But Dan Bejar’s true musical raison d’etre has always been Destroyer. After more than a decade and a half with Bejar as the center and only permanent member, Destroyer provides a study of an artist blossoming naturally, unfolding over time, if not always giving the audience precisely what it wants or expects.
The band’s initial clutch of albums offered the perfect fare to fans hungry for an update of art rock and post new wave. Bejar was making records with a Bowie-inflected brand of pomp, panache, and conceit, but with some Johnny Marr jangle and the literate, poetic edge of Morrissey. Up through 2002’s This Night, Destroyer’s debut at indie tastemaking imprint Merge, anyhow. That record was followed by 2004’s Your Blues, a left turn into MIDI-sequenced orchestrations that sounded like a grandiose, fevered hallucination enfolding while trapped inside an old Yamaha DX-7.
It’s taken a few tries but Bejar finally might have struck the perfect balance between his esoteric wordsmithing, his gift for composing baroque pop, and the implementation of 1980s dance textures and throwback electronic instrumentations. Kaputt honors Bejar’s grand vision and scope without losing sight of the listener’s levels of tolerance and interest. It’s an engaging set of songs from start to finish, haunted by notions like—as Bejar himself tells it—“The hopelessness of the future of music…The pointlessness of writing songs for today.” Against those odds, he has created a collection of songs that sound current and timeless. There’s the breezy electronic-ambient feel and chugging beat of “Chinatown,” which is ultimately rooted in the obtuse romanticism of Bejar’s lyrics and the brief squalling brass. “Savage Night at the Opera” swims in waves of New Order synths and bass bathed in chorus pedal, underpinned by Bejar’s patented soul-searching drama and musings like, “Let’s face it old souls like us have been born to die/It’s not a war till someone loses an eye.” “Suicide for Kara Walker” is warm electro disco on which Bejar collaborates with the celebrated, titular artist. And there’s the title track—a heavenly and perfect kitchen sink collision, where Bejar repeatedly sings, “It all sounds like a dream to me.” Kaputt never gives up what it is going for but likewise never loses sight of the muse: Truly, “pop” music can also double as fine art. How does one blur the lines? I dunno. Ask Bejar.
—donny kutzbachblog comments powered by Disqus
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v10n4 (Week of Thursday, January 27) > Left of the Dial > Destroyer - Kaputt
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds