, March 31st, 2011 13:42
From the glitchy, almost tactile opening bars of 'Chinatown', the first track from Dan Bejar's new record Kaputt, you can sense a sea change of sorts for Destroyer. In part it is the moulding of a radiantly new soundscape that borrows from a romantic art pop palette, referencing everyone from Roxy Music (especially the faraway sounding brass sections on so many of the songs) to Morrissey and his mournfully wry lyrics, with Bejar at times almost inhabiting the 'permanent figure of jacked up sorrow' writing poetry for himself that he sings of in 'Blue Eyes'.
There is an 80s feel to the record, but Bejar has taken the shiniest aspects of some of that period's production; brass sections, grandiose arrangements, lots of synthesizers, and worn it down, as if he is in a barrel, treading grapes, to produce a ragged, yet more alive version of that period, a wine that could be called 'Savage Night at the Opera', which is one of the standout tracks of the whole album. It is the purest vision of what Bejar was perhaps striving for; a melancholic, dramatic, messy and charming thesis that demands to be experienced live. He has a lazy way of enunciating his words, as if Rakim had turned to pop using Don Jonson circa Miami Vice as a reference. This is the great draw of the record, he makes everything sound as if he recorded it building sandcastles near a balmy sea, as the delivery of his lyrics is so nonchalant, but it just serves to draw you in further to this ultimately rich and compelling piece of work.
There are some truly moving moments, such as the echoey instrumental (replete with flutes) that makes up the three minute long opening to 'Suicide Demo for Kara Walker'. It’s indicative of the the serious nature of Bejar's output and creative impulse, as so clearly and ably demonstrated on previous albums Destroyers Rubies and Your Blues. Yet this record also reminds us just how funny he is, and how joyful music can be - heralded on the laid back disco feel to 'Song for America'.
His final track 'Bay of Pigs' (which was a single in 2009) is an almost-twelve minute opus, featuring the darkness which is his wellspring, creating an unsettling but sensual atmosphere with a lightly insistent bass and layers of synthesizers. It is a contradictory song; one moment he is referencing the inoffensive “discotheque”, before he sings, “Magnolia's a girl, her heart's made of wood,/ as apocalypses go that's pretty good, wouldn't you say?”; his Edward Lear-inspired lyrics making perfect sense, but then the heavy synthesizer kicks in to create a sound Junior Boys would be proud of. “You were on the side of good,/ I was inside of the sea's guts”, he sings, painting himself as the “hopeless romantic” as opposed to the “swine. There is a really tragic truth about the record, an acute sadness contained within a grand dream.