Review Summary: I wrote a song for America,
they told me it was clever.
Jessica's gone on vacation on
the dark side of town forever.
Who knew ... Who knew..
A lot of flawed attempts have been made to make an album that defines America or even one aspect of American culture. For as many books that have been written on American history, significant events in American history, or different American cultures, it seems like no artist is creative enough or can come up with a sound unique enough to give us a clear cut definition of America or even a "Song For America". Some people work years and years to have songs to define the United States as a whole and do not have the creative capabilities to pull it off. Maybe its because they do not know what they should define America as or they are to biased to see the big picture of what American life really is. What sound could even be close to unique or extravagant enough to define such a broad topic? How do you write lyrics that do not come off as too controversial or too patriotic? Is this album even possible?
It is possible if you are Destroyer and if you are making "Kaputt". Destroyer are one of the first bands to be able to accomplish the America defining able and the irony of this accomplishment is that they are from Canada. It is even more ironic that maybe it is only an outsider that can come out with a proper definition for America and it seems as if songwriter and singer Dan Bejar would define America as something like "elegant but flawed". "Elegant" in the fact that it is the richest country in the world but "flawed" in the fact the people are still chasing cocaine through backrooms. "Elegant" when you cannot walk away from "Chinatown" but "flawed" when a "fool child" has to strip herself naked in New York City. "Elegant" when you fall in love with someone but "flawed" when this relationship falls apart like it does in "Bay of Pigs". "Elegant but flawed" seems like a proper definition of the individual middle class culture and attitude of America rid of all the clichés and over exaggerations that usually accompany an album that attempts to accomplish what "Kaputt" already accomplished.
Another thing Bejar accomplished on "Kaputt" was the creation of a sound that defines this "flawed elegance". The sound itself is a sound that is rarely explored in the dub stepping, two stepping, and often over stepping sound of mainstream music that is heard in the 21st century. Bejar crafts a sound that distinctively defined the musical landscape of any major American city at one time or another: smooth jazz and soft rock are the two most prevalent types of music on this album. As contradicting as this is to the folk of Dylan or the hard rock of Springsteen it seems to be just as comprehensive and effective at defining the scope and struggles of the American middle class city culture. This may seem very unlikely on paper but Bejar makes absolutely sure that the unique style of music fits perfectly with whatever culturally defining lyrics he is muttering, that all of these nine completely different songs flow together almost seamlessly, and that even though this album is dependent on genres that have not been popular for years it still sounds completely new and original to the listener. All of these accomplishments by themselves are remarkable but when they are thrown together they create something that is more than just great, its a definition of a culture or maybe even a country.
When you are writing lyrics to define something or someone it is especially difficult and time consuming. When you are writing lyrics to define a subculture or maybe even a country the task becomes even more difficult and even more time consuming. In the case of Bejar he had to write lyrics that perfectly defined a subculture and then he had to make sure they somehow matched the jazzy instrumental work that is going on throughout "Kaputt". Even with all the obstacles stacked up against him, Bejar turns in one of the greatest songwriting performances of recent memory. The lyrics on this album are so brilliant, match the jazzy landscape of the album so beautifully, and are still culturally and maybe even country defining. Bejar's lyrics are one of the many keys to the atmosphere that he and his band are trying to accomplish and they play a central role in just about every song. The "elegance" of America is defined beautifully by a picture of someone not being able to walk away from "Chinatown". The destructiveness of a relationship is shown in the insanely catchy "Blue Eyes", the epic "Suicide Demo For Kara Walker", and the brilliant "Bay of Pigs". The counterculture is defined through "Kaputt" and to a lesser extent "Downtown". Bejar's lyrics are often times insanely depressing, even more often beautiful and elegant, but they are never flawed. This is why these lyrics fit perfectly into the atmosphere that "Kaputt" is trying to create.
"You’re a permanent figure of jacked up sorrow
I want you to love me
You send me a coffin of roses
I guess that’s the way that things go these days"
With "Kaputt" Destroyer have not only crafted one of the best albums of the year but an album that perfectly defines the "flawed elegance" of America. It is an album that observes the couple that is hapily married but also brings up the poor man chasing coacine every night of his life. It is an album that observes the beauty of the overpopulated American city but also brings up what some Americans have to do to get by in these cities. It is an album that acknowledges people falling in love but also talks about how quickly those relationships can fall apart. It is an album that talks about the peace that is found in the simple things but the war many people in these cities find in just waking up. On "Poor In Love" Bejar describes himself as someone that is "poor in love, poor in wealth" but "has style". Well on "Kaputt" Bejar has crafted a style that is not only one of the most original and unique that you will find in the 2011 soundscape but one that perfectly does what thousands and maybe millions of muscians before him could not do: define the positives and negatives of America. For this Bejar and Destroyer deserve any love or wealth they get.