(Merge) Dan Bejar--the driving, fundamental force that is Destroyer--arrives with his ninth album, Kaputt. Every hint and suggestion that has been offered through previous releases, in terms of direction and reward, is delivered here. That’s not to say that Destroyer was ever shabby; it’s just that now things have gotten a hell of a lot smoother. More is given than was ever promised. The right level of polyester adds sheen to the lapels. Silk, not satin, sheets are fitted in the nocturnal chambers. Vaseline is on the lens. Pastel lights slowly pulse in the lounge. Dan Bejar turns in his best material so far.
In an album of storytelling and character studies, the imagery is vivid yet somewhat powdery. Sardonic remarks are made as Bejar, the raconteur, adjusts his cufflinks. Rooms are peopled by darlings on Charlie. It’s like soft-core fare from the 1970s, but better because it’s now.
Instrumentation of flutes, smooth saxophone, and warm bass have the residue of politely spilt Martinis. Slow swaying disco beats keep things moving. Initially this could be one of the greatest Easy Listening albums of all time. On further listening, lyrical edge brings in quite uneasy concepts or clever advances that we didn’t necessarily consent to at first, but we have to admit to loving. We’re all suddenly in our underwear, with another drink or line beyond our usual capacity in front of us. Ah, well, never mind, it’s a good time. We’ll worry about it in the morning. Will we still be able to make eye-contact when the sun comes up?
"Kaputt" the title track is a real winner, with an equally winning video. “Chasing cocaine through the back rooms of the world, all night” is delivered with a tender lilt that is usually the reserve of loving confessionals, not narcotic pursuits. Again, so smooth, so well-mannered, it’s disgustingly good fun. Other phrases deal with aspirations beyond addiction, or addictions that are slightly less hedonistic and more creative. It’s a real strength of the album that multi-faceted concepts are explored internally within each song. Like crystals hanging from the piano, light and stories are refracted quite exquisitely.
The prism effect of storytelling presents a much deeper, substantial album than would be offered if Bejar stuck only to his individual experience. Trying on different perspectives, approaching altered states and other lives gives personal accounts from a spectrum that draws attention and survives scrutiny. A track like “Blue Eyes” begs the question: ‘How closely does Bejar relate to his subjects?’ “I write poetry for myself” is the confession of a soul who also receives coffins full of roses. Even in the most melodramatic passages, there’s a sense of self-deprecating humor, so light, so refreshing. We may be sway-dancing on glass tables, but we know where the ground is.
“Bay of Pigs,” the closing track, weighing in at over eleven minutes long, is a spaced-out masterstroke. As the track slowly opens, there’s something quite Zen in that we’re given time to examine the space between thoughts which would usually be an overblown or hippy sentiment. But this is the definition of a drinking man adrift in a ruined house watching ships disappear in the rain. As musically the track develops and changes mood and tempo, we pass through many themes: sadness, beauty, isolation, truth, and dreams of escape. Bejar’s voice, as on the rest of the album, is calm, reasoned, and utterly trustworthy. No matter what mood he’s in, everything he tells you, he tells you as a friend.
At nine albums under the moniker of Destroyer, Kaputt is an excellent introduction for folks who have so far been unaware of Bejar. For fans that have been with him since the start, this is the album that will stop them in their tracks, asking, "Has it always been this good?" The answer is: "Yes, but now the sun is up and we’re still making eye-contact."
For Fans Of: David Bowie, MGMT, Roxy Music, Pulp, Jarvis Cocker
Standout Tracks: "Kaputt," "Bay of Pigs," "Chinatown"