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.

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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].

Notes:
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.