Destroyer: ken

- For over 20 years, Dan Bejar has been releasing records as Destroyer. Perhaps the artist most often mistakenly filed under “metal” by unknowing record store employees, Destroyer is in fact the vehicle through which Bejar creates a kind of urbane, witty style of indie pop, delivered in his slightly hammy Lloyd Cole croak. Despite Bejar steadfastly sticking to his own idiosyncratic path whether making records as Destroyer or as part of Canadian power pop collective The New Pornographers, he managed to surprise even his most ardent admirers by attracting some genuine hype with his 2011 record Kaputt, which artfully placed his song-stories amongst soft-rock saxophones and sleek ’80's flavoured AOR arrangements. 2015 follow-up Poison Season brought chamber pop and towering string arrangements to the party. And as generalised as my descriptions of those two records were, new album ken is even harder to pin down. With a title indirectly influenced by an old Suede tune, the album in part returns to the DIY electro-pop textures of earlier works such as Your Blues, though with that record’s MIDI sounds replaced by a sort of expressionistic Pet Shop Boys bounce. Evidence of this can be heard in the short, sweet (yet also slightly nightmarish) Stay Lost and superb second single Tinseltown Swimming In BloodCover From The Sun provides snapshots of Bejar’s misfit characters in a compact power pop format, while A Light Travels Down The Catwalk could work as a queasier, alternative soundtrack to The Neon Demon – “Strike an empty pose”, Bejar sings over a kind of disillusioned techno, the sheen and pitch worn off the synths, crumbling like dreams. Yes, of course the album is full of Bejar’s pithy one-liners, though admittedly with more world-weariness than ever. There’s a touch of Steely Dan-esque cynicism in the aforementioned Tinseltown…, where Bejar intones “Dead flowers on the skyline/hey how was the wine baby?”. And in forlorn yet lovely ballad Saw You At The Hospital, he goes for straight pathos with such lines as “Your mind was insane / Your gown was on wrong / In the rain”. After the last two albums’ perhaps-accidental flirtation with the mainstream, ken does manage to skilfully summarise many of Bejar’s musical ideas in both the distant and recent pasts, as well as continue to push his compositions into their own thoroughly individualistic directions.

- Matt Thrower.

 

Album Details

Album Title: ken
Artist: Destroyer
Record Label: (Merge)