Beer and Pavement

Destroyer’s Kaputt and Other Records

Posted in Records by SM on January 28, 2011

Dan Bejar is the New Pornographer I like best[1]. His songs are distinctive amongst a mishmash of sensible Canadian pop. He’s also the weirdest of the New Pornos in regards to appearance, songwriting, and vocals. That, in my mind, makes him the star. Plus, he’s part of the excellent Frog Eyes/Wolf Parade collab Swan Lake.

That said, Kaputt is by far Bejar’s most perplexing material to date. This is saying something for an artist so strange. Where past releases could be thought of as strange, weird, or challenging, this one doesn’t fit in that same context in the same way.  Kaputt challenges my sensibilities to no end, almost to the point that I begin to wonder if I have to pretend to like Destroyer now[2].

Someone somewhere[3] thought the eighties were pretty rad and that every fashion trend and musical style from the decade of Reaganomics, pastels, and sterilized soul music should be replicated in the most authentic way possible. Bejar, upon first listen, seems to have embraced that aesthetic. However, it somehow feels as though he’s come to it honestly. And for that reason, I find Kaputt pleasurable.

What separates Kaputt from your run-of-the-mill eighties revivalists is that Bejar turned to the studio to create this ungodly sound instead of the bedroom. Where many hipster musicians are going the cheap Casio over tape recorder route[4], Bejar stepped into a professional studio and pieced together an excellent album that recalls the forgettable eighties in caricature. After Neutral Milk Hotel, Sufjan Stevens, and Beirut, I never thought I could hear a more acceptable use of horns[5] in an indie rock song, but, again, Bejar makes sense of the eighties puzzle. And over all this is his elfish voice and unique lyrical delivery. And those lyrics. Bejar fits so much message in so little space. Sure, his narratives can lose you and challenge you to the point of frustration, but these words engage the listener like very few songwriters can. Truly, this is a record I never should have liked and did not expect to, but somehow it is worming its way into my ears.

What’s the longevity for such a record? I mean, once the newness of the content and nostalgia wears off, will I be able to tolerate the aesthetic? I honestly don’t know. This is the first new record of 2011 I’ve heard[6] and it’s great, but somehow I suspect it won’t make my top-10 come December. The appreciation of this Destroyer record will most likely be fleeting, much like the faux soul posturing disguised as New Wave and New Romanticism did in the decade of my childhood. That said, I’ll just enjoy it now and wallow in its complexity.


Now, for the latecomers…

At the end of every year, there are all these top-10 lists and in those top-10 lists lie hidden gems I missed. So, a yearly practice is to pick up some of these records before diving headfirst into the new year. As of this week, only the above record had arrived, but a few 2010 records came weeks ago[7]. I’ve ordered others, but I don’t know that they’ll arrive before this post is published. Here’s a quick rundown of records I missed in 2010. I’ll warn you, I do a lot of lazy comparisons to bands you know in this post. So, forgive me.

Born Ruffians – Say It
If Vampire Weekend had balls, Talking Heads their youth, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah a future as a rock band, they might sound like Born Ruffians[8]. What a raucous good time this record is. How did it not catch my attention upon the first listen? Herky jerky songs over some excellent early rock ‘n roll crooning remind me of every band in Brooklyn at the moment, but the songs stand alone. Good stuff, this.

Double Dagger – Masks
Double Dagger are a hot, hot mess. There just aren’t enough rock bands who sound as ruinous and live as this band does recorded[9]. Feedback, broken drum kits, and vocals that yell describe what I’m talking about. The fast-paced tracks attack and never let up. Toddlers love this shit and so do their dads. Trust me.

Screaming Females – Castle Talk
There just isn’t enough female early nineties’ classic rock packaged as “alternative” in indie today. Had Smashing Pumpkins chosen to play rock music as well as a strong female voice instead of letting Voldemort whine[10], they would have been called “Screaming Females.” One gets a ton or Runaways and Joan Jett from this band. It’s pretty aggressive stuff to dance to and may fill quite a bit of my allotted 2011 listening time.

All three were great finds. Although I may be sorry to have missed them the first time around, I’m making up for lost time at this very moment[11].

1Neko Case is a close, close second, but there’s another factor that Dan Bejar does not possess.
2I don’t pretend to like Destroyer. I like them for reals, yo.
3I blame hipsters in Williamsburg.
4Normally, this agrees with me, but the eighties thing recorded using nineties’ methodology doesn’t do it for me. I want my eighties new wave to be crisp and overproduced.
5Bejar actually uses more cheesy saxophone than trumpet, like those other indie acts.
6Iron and Wine was released as well, but my copy didn’t arrive in time for this review. Somehow, I suspect it will let me down as every Iron and Wine album fails to outdo the last.
7To be honest, these three records arrived in December. I just haven’t had time to really give them a good listen until now.
8These were my first impressions, but the kind of material Born Ruffians really remind me of are all those Brooklyn bands that showed up after The Walkmen showed up.
9That said, I’d love to see this band live.
10Billy Corgan.
11Come back later. I’ll update this post if something comes in at the end of the week. According to UPS tracking, I have records coming on Thursday (I’m writing this Wednesday evening) and Friday.

11 Responses

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  1. Pizza Cottontail said, on January 28, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Does it make me old if I can’t get into the faux-80s movement? I’m like you; I like it crisp and in-studio. Ariel Pink’s home recordings don’t do it for me. I can do faux-60’s, 70’s, and 90’s just fine.

    I’ll give this Destroyer a try, though. I own a couple albums, but I haven’t given them enough of a chance yet: the ten minute tracks intimidated me, because I was going through my ADHD phase.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on January 28, 2011 at 9:25 am

      Let me be clear: I like my 80’s retro to be crisp and in-studio. I love bedroom recordings and lo-fi, but I don’t get remaking eighties New Wave and New Romantic Pop with cheap-ass recording equipment. It just rubs me the wrong way. I usually don’t care for the eighties revivalism, but this album caught my attention. I fully expected to hate it.

      Now, before you get a copy, remember that it’s a challenging album and may take some work on your part to like. You should also be prepared to hate it. I still am convinced that I’ll hate it eventually. However, for now, I think it’s great.

  2. jeffmenter said, on January 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Since I never know what you’re talking about music-wise I went ahead and listened to a few tracks from this album (someone was kind enough to upload them to YouTube.)

    Here’s my quick-judging-a-book-by-its-cover take: why in the name of all that is holy would you—if doing the faux-’80s revival thing—choose the worst parts to incorporate (the production aesthetic) and not the best parts (the slavish devotion to strong melody and catchy hooks.)

    I know the ’80s is not a single monolithic musical entity. But for all the missteps (too much relying on sequencing, way too much reverb on the snare, thin guitar, ubiquitous/horrible drum machines etc.) there was also a tendency to have a clear and strong melodic structure and fantastic hooks. To me, this was the best part of ’80s music and it’s something I find sorely lacking in most of what was popular during the ’90s.

    I admit that I’m probably pre-judging Kaputt but I have never heard of them before today and if I give the material proper time to digest this post will be too old to comment on. 😛

    • builderofcoalitions said, on January 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

      I think that’s a fair assessment and it’s sort of what I expected in my own review. However, Bejar somehow made it all work. I think there’s real value in hearing the entire album from beginning to end. The tracks alone don’t carry the weight that the entire album does, but I doubt that will change your mind. Certainly, this album is for a rather small niche market. Sometimes I’m in on it, sometimes not. Still, I applaud your efforts.

      • jeffmenter said, on January 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

        If you’re going for ’80s, you should try to sound as much like this as possible:

        [audio src="" /]

      • builderofcoalitions said, on January 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm

        I don’t agree with that. Interesting that the singer sounds a lot like you when you sing (or vice versa).

  3. Bob Badger said, on February 8, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    I loooooove the new Destroyer! I am now officially into anything that qualifies as indie-rock easy listening. I don’t really drink beer, but I do have kids and no longer have the energy available to contend with difficult bands. Pass. Give me something I can make dinner to.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on February 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      Destroyer is easy listening? I find it more challenging than that, but I get your point. Maybe that’s what it is that appeals to me. Christ, I may go on a Wilco kick at any moment.

      • Bob Badger said, on February 8, 2011 at 3:06 pm

        Destroyer, Vampire Weekend, Calexico; We need these bands to usher in a new era of Yacht Rock that subverts the Dad Rock paradigm and reclaims our indie-rock dignity! That made little sense, but it does bum me out that Wilco is seen as old and gets the same brush off as everything else. sucks to get old sometimes.

      • builderofcoalitions said, on February 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm

        No, I agree. I still like Wilco, but they are seen as dad rock.

  4. […] the lot. It’s over-the-top, bad eighties quality makes it a tough listen. Had it not been for Destroyer’s all-out-assault on anti-eighties aesthetics earlier this year, this track might have been unlistenable. It certainly sticks out and I’m […]

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