Although he was an integral figure in the band and his contributions were unparalleled in surreal romance and beauty, can we finally stop considering Dan Bejar little more than “a New Pornographer?” On Kaputt he’s the oh-so hardened romantic, now a gallant reformed playboy—and possibly pencil-mustachioed old pornographer from the amount of ladies he discusses throughout the album—complete with a lounge-lizard soundtrack to ease a man who’s learned the error of his ways into new being.
The music, at first dismissible as wannabe ’70s ultra-chic night-on-the-town jams is richly complex, is not unlike the opulence of Marie Antoinette’s Palace Of Versailles. Is it ornate? Gauche? Tacky? Too full of weird but priceless little tchotchke? Sure. But would you live there if you could? Of course you would. But for now we mock what we can’t have. But Destroyer does have it. In fact, it’s had this inimitable quality for a length of time. The kitsch in the egg-shaker beats, each smooth-jazz horn flourish—it’s all pageantry. If anything, the hearkening back to the fabled sounds of 3 a.m. in a gauche tiki room are a bit over the top. But be damned if all the bells, whistles and sax don’t add up to an ideal whole.
Sadly, Dan Bejar tuned down the distinctive cross-hatch in his vocals that has made skin crawl with delight, but, as has remained unchanged for over a decade, his continental blues are heard in his quick-witted lyrics; the lovely laments of Kaputt are full of tongue-in-cheek nuances. “I was poor in love,” Bejar sings on the stand-out track “Poor In Love,” only to deliver the next line with heart-wrenching sincerity: “I was poor in wealth. I was okay in everything else there was though I was poor in love.”
Previously released as an EP, closer “Bay Of Pigs” is also a startling achievement. It sounds like a Destroyer of a different era, embracing the vocal-led minimalist drive of 1998’s City Of Daughters. And just when it feels as if everything but Bejar’s voice will peter out, the steady clap of the drum machine and windswept distortion that marked the Rubies time kicks in so subtly. It’s ornate as the rest of Kaputt, but the kicks come slowly, and by the time you wonder how the song has progressed into a dance-beat song of sorrow and love, 11 minutes have passed and Bejar is singing his last note.
And like his charming habit of tacking on a breathy laugh—always stifled as if he was a stand-up comic catching himself mid-chuckle when the audience is staring, po-faced, at him alone, center stage, emotionally naked and bathed in the spotlight. And it’s perfect.