Dan Bejar’s 12th Destroyer album ‘Have We Met’ reaches the heights of his songwriting capability, but frustratingly infrequently.
Destroyer, the love child of Canadian indie-pop singer-songwriter Dan Bejar, is not only one of the most dependable projects of the indie scene from the past three decades in terms of consistency of output, but also undoubtedly one of the most stylistically diverse and instantly recognisable. This is due primarily to Bejar’s distinctive, ‘weedy’ vocal delivery, as well as his equally quirky lyricisms, that permeate through every aspect of his catalogue. Having gained recognition throughout the Noughties as a recurring guest feature within the critically acclaimed supergroup The New Pornographers, his solo career has only gained momentum from there.
Scattered throughout Destroyer’s lifespan are what many
consider to be true moments of excellence, the most recent of which is the 2011
release Kaputt, an
immaculately produced collection of jazz and soul-inspired pop songs, topped
off with countless enchanting sax and trumpet flourishes. Meanwhile, Bejar’s
most recent release, 2017’s ken,
marked a calculated shift towards a synthpop-oriented style, and despite not
quite managing to live up to the heights of Kaputt, he would seek to
consolidate his mastery of the synthpop aesthetic on his first release of the
new decade, Have We Met.
In reality, this album exhibits both the positives and
negatives of what one has come to expect from Destroyer. Firstly, the
production is superb yet again, thanks to the input of New Pornographers
bandmate John Collins. The synthesisers are lush and colourful, the
reverb-heavy guitars provide a spine-tingling, atmospheric flavour, while the
subtle echo effect on Bejar’s voice only enhances this ambience. Furthermore,
there are smatterings of melodic brilliance all over the record, albeit often
in small doses, such as the dreamy piano theme that runs through the opener ‘Crimson Tide’, or the
majestic crescendo during the climax of the closing track ‘foolssong’.
However, there are still some glaring issues that hold this
album back, one of which occurs as a result of Bejar’s unusual lyrical style. There
are occasional instances whereby the lyrics come across as more ridiculous than
remarkable, such as the line “Clickety click click / the music makes a
musical sound”. You don’t say! Furthermore, despite the fantastic
production and diverse sonic textures at play, the actual composition of many
of these tracks does seem fairly lacklustre and uninteresting. For example,
‘Crimson Tide’ spends its entire six-minute duration merely alternating between
two chords, and neither do ‘The
Raven’ nor ‘Cue
Synthesizer’ diverge from their original chord progressions, despite the
latter’s rather intriguing late-‘90s electronic rock influence. Ultimately,
this results in a fairly linear and exceedingly predictable listening
experience, one that high quality modern production is only partially capable
Nevertheless, this album contains unquestionably one of the
finest Destroyer songs of Bejar’s career, namely the stunning ‘It Just Doesn’t Happen’. Built
upon an infectious synthesiser melody, Bejar reigns in his idiosyncratic vocal
delivery somewhat, in favour of a more rhythmic approach, the result being a
textbook example of what a synthpop tune ought to sound like. For all the
album’s shortcomings, it’s worth picking up for this track alone.
Overall, from a stylistic perspective, Have We Met is
a success insomuch as that Bejar has become more than proficient at embracing
the intricacies by which the crowning moments of the synthpop genre are
characterised. In this respect, the album picks up from where ken took
off and constitutes nothing less than a worthy successor to the 2017 release.
Nevertheless, from a songwriting perspective, there are still unavoidable
deficiencies that fundamentally prevent this album from reaching the heights
that Bejar has proven time and again that he’s capable of reaching, either
during his tenure with the New Pornographers, or on records such as Kaputt.
Therefore, one cannot help wishing for just a little more. (6/10) (George
Listen to Have We Met by Destroyer here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, dead oceans, Destroyer, Have We Met, John Collins, Nicolas Bragg
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