Absolve, Absolve, Absolve

This is a post about Destroyer, which is mostly the work of Dan Bejar. Bejar may be better known as a member of The New Pornographers. I've never been a huge fan of the NPs, but that may be due to a lack of exposure - maybe somebody can suggest some good songs of theirs. I might also state up front that I haven't listened to more than a track or two from Destroyer's latest album, Your Blues. This is more of a tribute my three favorite Destroyer albums: Streethawk: A Seduction, City of Daugters, and This Night.

The song "Bad Arts", from the album Streethawk: A Seduction, was the first Destroyer song to get's its hooks in me. The unassuming acoustic intro has almost a livingroom recording quality to it, with Bejar alternating between a raspy tenor and squawky falsetto. It's easy to think you've got a handle on what Destroyer is about. But then a minute in, the guitar falls out and here comes this strolling bass and drums that are so clean (dare I say dorky?) you almost feel like you're in an instructional video. And then there's the guitar comes back and it's electric and it brought along a piano and things are clearly building here, and then BOOM. It's some kind of undefinied electric shock that's so incongruent with the mix that you feel like something must be wrong with your stereo - but actually it must have been the engines blasting off, because now you're floating away into some huge reverberating space and you're thinking "how the fuck did I get here?"

That song brings out what makes Destroyer so interesting - the melodies and instrumentation range from easy-going to majestic (never aggressive), but they're constantly interspersed with effects and compositional choices that are truly bizzare and awkward. Songs often end abruptly - not just in mid-verse, but in mid-word. You get the sense that Bejar only wants you getting so comfortable. His vocal style in itself has the potential to be either sweet or fascinatingly weird.

Bejar manages to craft these seemingly conflicting elements into a sound that is not only coherent but, in my opinion, truly unique. And catchy - don't forget catchy.

RECOMMENDED TRACKS: From Streethawk... "Bad Arts", "Beggars Might Ride", "Virgin With a Memory"; from City of Daughters "No Cease Fires", "The Space Race", "State of the Union", "You Were So Cruel"; from This Night "This Night", "Holly Going Lightly"


Blogger d said...

this is definitely a solid recommendation in my book. I am unfamiliar with the day job projects of the various members of the new pornographers but I will start with destroyer.

5:24 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger mary said...

good call, phil.

my favorite new pornographers songs, of late, are "mass romantic" and "the laws have changed."

also, I'm a big fan of neko case's side project the corn sisters. because, as it turns out, I really love folky-country music.

2:11 PM, May 19, 2005  

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