Review Summary: Dan Bejar does a little digging in the dust...
I have a vision that, ten years or so down the road, The Weather Channel’s Local on the 8s segment will feature selections from Destroyer’s Kaputt
as background muzak. In other words, I foresee Canadian musician Dan Bejar’s current artistic direction as an unknowing self-invitation to the place where soft rock goes to die and be forgotten. Or maybe I’m wrong, completely backwards: it’s possible, I suppose, that the title of Bejar’s brass and disco laden opus is the key to the irony behind the album’s anachronistic sound. Either way, whether Kaputt
finds itself in the eventual company of the computer-generated voice who provides your daily forecast or not, it doesn’t deserve that; no, sir, no, ma’am. Against all odds, the lovesick New Pornographer takes a stylistic detour through the overgrown woods of datedness and comes out the other side with a sturdy walking stick carved from the bark of decades past. And if you want, he’ll lend it to you, and then you too can travel retrograde, musically and emotionally, to a private little yesterday just as beautiful as it is sorrowful.
As it turns out, Bejar’s atypical brew of gratuitous saxophone, glittery synthesizers, Lynchian atmosphere, and poetic introspection doesn’t just prosper; on occasion, such as on the pivotal “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker,” Kaputt
soars. After two haunting minutes of ambient melancholy, Bejar stumbles into the picture, rattling off cryptic line after cryptic line of drunken despondency. Lyrically, “Suicide Demo” is no more than a stitched quilt of freefalling abstractions, but it’s that very looseness, when paired with Dan Bejar’s slippery voice, that adds living, breathing feeling. “All of America live to light his pipe at night,” Bejar slurs before desperately exhaling, “to which Dixie responds: ‘Free me.’” It is the sound of a soul baring itself naked, not wanting to be understood but to be felt, for only then can its passion be fathomed. The track’s final stretch, a glorious “Fake Empire” wall of cascading horns, drives the point home: Kaputt
doesn’t breathe life into the defunct but breathes a living into it, and there’s a fine difference between the two.
is not without minor shortcomings; late-album cut “Song for America” revisits the record’s seven preceding songs and rests on their laurels without adding anything particularly new to Destroyer’s bag of tricks. On the other hand, there’s “Poor in Love,” a tune brimming with promise but which ultimately fails to combine constituent ideas: rather than aggregating, they build up to a half climax, then sputter out without real resolution. It’s a frustrating letdown, more vignette than song, especially after the perfect “Suicide Demo,” but perhaps Bejar intended for it to do just that – to clear the air, so to speak. Likewise, Kaputt
’s derivative penultimate track makes the eleven-minute “Bay of Pigs” all the more astonishing. Released in an early version on a 2009 EP, “Pigs” takes the fabric of nearly everything that makes Kaputt
what it is, and turns it inside-out. With a sprawling, sonic sigh, filtered through the usual soft rock medium, the album’s structure comes crashing down, leaving a single lonely word: kaput.
In the end, Destroyer’s masterwork, an immaculate mess of contradictions, loses itself to its creator’s brilliant grief; its spark, born of a stale, lifeless genre, is but a spark, bright for a second but wholly transient. Here is an album – that is, a portfolio of musical works supporting each other for that sense of finality, of closure, which comes with natural identity. In the 3D-movie era, where torpid excess is all the rage, Dan Bejar does a little digging in the dust and discovers that’s where the spirit dwells, indeed.