written by Chris Familton
Wistful reminisces abound on the new Destroyer album Kaputt. It is Dan Bejar’s ninth album under the Destroyer moniker it feels like a wave over the shoulder or a long lazy sunday spent poring over old VHS cassettes. Bejar went about creating a holistic 80s sound for the record, complete with dreamy washes of chorus guitar, horn solos one degree removed from Kenny G and flashbacks to Prefab Sprout, Blue Nile and Double circa Captain Of Her Heart.
Born in 1972, Bejar is the same age as this reviewer and spent the heart of his teens immersed in 80s synthetic pop music. Therefore the question must be asked – does this music only appeal to those in their mid-late 30s or can a 22 year old appreciate and get hooked in without approaching via pastiche and nostalgia for an era too often personified by cliche?
Ultimately Kaputt transcends the discussion of its smooth, synth pop references via its strength of writing, composition and just the right level of quirk in Bejar’s voice and lyrics. He has this weird habit of trying to fit more words than normal into some lines, while at the same time delivering them in a lackadaisical, almost casual manner. He also likes to repeat phrases, heightening the impact of their intonation and the meaning if any is discernible. An example of this is Blue Eyes’ ‘Can’t you see they had it in for me’ which he repeats with slightly different phrasing with each word changing emphasis each time round.
Blue Eyes is also the first of many to feature horn solos which really are a hallmark and delight of the album. There is little to differentiate them from the much derided cheese that added syrup to a million 80s chart hits. They work because they are so integrated into the overall sound Bejar has concocted for his songs. If they were played over straight indie pop they would certainly sound laughable and gimmicky. Here they are in context – much the same way that Gayngs used them on their Relayted record from last year.
One of the highlights of the album is Savage Nights At The Opera with its New Order via The Cure bass and guitar riffs. It is as if Bejar has found a way to merge jazz-pop and the goth/indie sounds of the same period. The song finds a warm and rolling groove that rides over washes of synth with almost invisible ease. A guitar solo takes the song to another level sounding like an outtake from The Strokes and it again ties together multiple strands of melancholy indie pop from different time zones.
Suicide For Kara Walker sounds like a lifeboat adrift at sea with sounds and effects floating in and out of the first two minutes before Bejar drawls lazily over a Phoenix-like musical backdrop. Tinges of afro-funk infiltrate the back end of the song while flute adds a wonderfully light touch compared to the saxophone and clarinets that had previously taken centre stage. Downtown deals in similar sonics but it is a much tighter and cleaner sounding song. The focus on the bass keeps things from becoming too detached and female backing vocals in the chorus give it a UK blue-eyed soul feel like Scritti Politti or Blow Monkeys.
There really isn’t a weak track on Kaputt. The whole thing is tied together thematically, sonically and with an abundance of dreamy melancholy that makes it such a wonderfully immersive listen. Though it references the past it somehow manages to sound completely contemporary and quite unlike anything else that is around at the moment. With Kaputt Dan Bejar has created a delightfully opulent and indulgent album that haunts you for repeated plays if you let it into your imagination.