ALBUM REVIEW: Destroyer - Kaputt


B+ | MERGE | 1.25.11 | MOG | AMAZON | INSOUND

Dan Bejar is not normal. I would imagine being a member of Destroyer is difficult, constantly looking at the lead singer and songwriter and asking him if he’s kidding. But somehow his crackpot ideas, complex and cryptic lyrics, and musical strangeness have consistently worked for years now. On Kaputt, Bejar abandons the formulas that made Streethawk: A Seduction and Destroyer’s Rubies indie classics and tries to make his version of a pop record. His version of a pop record in 2011 is insanely, near-hilariously far from what you might expect, but Kaputt quickly distinguishes itself as what will be one of 2011’s best albums.

The sound on this album is an odd one. Destroyer’s pop sounds a lot like soft rock from a few decades ago, if you add in a lot of new-age synths and jazz elements. It’s sonically a huge change from other Destroyer records, and a confusing one that, at first listen can bring a chuckle when you think about it too hard. The templates here are familiar ones, but they’ve never been done this intelligently or earnestly. The cheesiness of some of the instrumentals and choruses become the parts that ingratiate themselves in your mind.

Bejar’s songwriting, however, remains largely the same. He’s always been a compelling lyricist, simply because of how unorthodox and uncompromising he is. He mixes in complex stories and obtuse imagery, and sings it in a irregular, meandering fashion. Often he’ll take a great line, and break it in two, separating phrases with a pause that would normally denote different stanzas. He hides his greatest work in the music, and it takes a lot of mental flexibility to keep up, though it’s always worth it.

As in his other albums, Bejar cannot resist throwing about extraneous lines that help reconcile the skill and weirdness that are synonymous with Destroyer. “He doesn’t see why Mary-Jane, from down the lane, went insane” is an example from ‘Downtown.’ Delivered in his halting, hurried fashion, Bejar makes an essentially very simple rhyme sound natural and more than a little sad, while for most other songwriters it would come off as trite and forced.

Picking a favorite song from Kaputt is akin to picking a favorite course from Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone has a personal favorite, but there are no arguments when someone else’s is different; it’s all great. For me, it’s ‘Poor In Love’ (and pumpkin pie), but the thing about Bejar’s twisted poetry is that something will stick out in every one of his songs, what hits home just depends on the listener.

In the end, Bejar tells us what he’s doing here as clearly as possible. “I write poetry for myself, I write poetry for myself” he declares at the outset of "Blue Eyes." He means it, and it means great things for Kaputt. The world should be happy he’s not normal; it makes for good listening.

Destroyer - "Chinatown" (MP3)

Destroyer - "Kaputt" (Video)

Destroyer - "Blue Eyes"