Dan Bejar has been releasing music as Destroyer for the better part of the past two decades. As most artists with a history of that length, his sound has evolved from his early bedroom recordings to the verbose and grandiose pop of his more recent releases—though never leery to push some boundary along the way.
Since 2001, Bejar has been working his way into the hearts and minds of college radio. His association with New Pornographers has likely helped this ascent, but with Bejar’s contributions to Brill Bruisers being some of the strongest on that album, the relationship is reciprocal.
On November 5, 2002, Destroyer made his first big strides on the CMJ charts reaching No. 20 with This Night. On his following album, Your Blues, Bejar took his sound in a new direction, a path he continued down and is the style most widely associated with Destroyer. Your Blues didn’t make it quite as high on the charts as his previous album and peaked at No. 23 on March 30, 2004.
In 2006, Destroyer cracked the top 10 on March 16, 2006 with his highly acclaimed album Destroyer’s Rubies. While his follow-up Trouble In Dreams was not as well received, it still landed in the top 10 on the CMJ charts and peaked at No. 8 on April 8, 2008.
On Kaputt, Bejar played up some of the elements of pop from his early work to a point where it errs on the side of cheesy, but manages to never comes across as contrived or inauthentic. College radio got behind Kaputt more than any of his others, and it peaked at No. 2 on February 1, 2011.
CMJ Chart For The Week Of February 1, 2011
ARTIST & TITLE
|1||1||DECEMBERISTS The King Is Dead||Capitol|
|3||2||TAPES ‘N TAPES Outside||Ibid|
|4||26||IRON AND WINE Kiss Each Other Clean||Warner Bros.|
|5||33||DEERHOOF Deerhoof Vs. Evil||Polyvinyl|
|6||13||TENNIS Cape Dory||Fat Possum|
|7||5||CAGE THE ELEPHANT Thank You Happy Birthday||Jive|
|8||18||SMITH WESTERNS Dye It Blond||Fat Possum|
|9||4||GANG OF FOUR Content||Yep Roc|
|10||7||FUJIYA AND MIYAGI Ventriloquizzing||Yep Roc|
|11||107||COLD WAR KIDS Mine Is Yours||Downtown|
|12||11||DUCKTAILS Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics||Woodsist|
|13||6||DAFT PUNK TRON: Legacy||Disney|
|14||15||SOCIAL DISTORTION Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes||Epitaph|
|15||9||BRITISH SEA POWER Valhalla Dancehall||Rough Trade|
|16||8||MATT AND KIM Sidewalks||Fader|
|17||10||BELLE AND SEBASTIAN Write About Love||Matador|
|18||19||DARWIN DEEZ Darwin Deez||Lucky Number|
|19||12||DEERHUNTER Halcyon Digest||4AD|
|20||25||GROUPLOVE Grouplove [EP]||Canvasback|
With the release of his forthcoming album Poison Season on the horizon, Dan Bejar’s Destroyer will no doubt be back in the fold of college radio in the coming weeks, and attempting to take the No. 1 title this time around.
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.