ALBUM REVIEW: Destroyer Returns With ‘Have We Met’

Dan Bejar’s new record just might be his best since ‘Kaputt.’

Look. It doesn’t take a forensic investigator to scour the depths of my hero-worship of Destroyer frontman and mastermind, Dan Bejar. Exhibit A would have to be my bio for this very site, which explicitly states that I have a “soft spot for anything touched by Dan Bejar.” Exhibit B might just be my long-winded, exhaustive love letter to his 2011 album, Kaputt, a record I’ve often cited as “the greatest album of all time.”

So yeah, of course I like his new album, Have We Met, a brilliantly surreal, slyly-beautiful record filled with some of his most evocative writing and his richest soundscapes.

Ever since Kaputt bathed his words in sumptuous, richly-textured saxophones and fretless bass, Bejar’s subsequent records have all abandoned the freak-folky, MIDI-laden chaos of his 2000s output, from the rich string arrangements of 2015’s Poison Season, to ken‘s pulsing, noir themes. Here, Destroyer dwells in the same sort of atmosphere, but the record sounds as if it’s been blown up into grander scale. It sounds roomy, carefully put together, and at turns absolutely marvelous.

Take, for example, “Cue Synthesizer.” It’s rooted into the earth by thick slabs of bass, with increasingly violent squalls of electric guitar, growing into its brusque, brutal groove. On an early highlight, “It Just Doesn’t Happen To Anyone,” Bejar’s voice almost sounds catchy, anchored to a blocky, glammy strut that sounds delightful. There’s “Kinda Dark,” which balances a tight, compressed drum machine with ambient synths and an echoing grand piano, Bejar guiding the swirl of sound while submerged in it. And then, in a moment of blinding light, there’s “The Man In Black’s Blues,” which is as spacious and as pretty-sounding as Bejar’s lyrics, unusually succinct and jarringly pleasant.

For someone with no shortage of bombastic turns of phrase, Bejar is a lot more mellow in his vocal delivery here. He’s still got some fantastic lines to boot; he talks about “chickenshit singers paying their dues” on the lead single “Crimson Tide,” and he “went to America, went to Europe” on the aforementioned “Cue Synthesizer,” deducing that “it’s all the same shit.” Of course, this all pales in comparison to this lyrical masterwork from “The Television Music Supervisor”:

“Clickety click click”
The music makes a musical sound
Measured in echoes
By famous novelist brothers
Shithead No. 1 and Shithead No. 2″

But for all these absurd spurts of sardonic wit, Bejar’s lyrical instincts primarily remain intact and unmatched. He’s able to offer a jarring moment of clarity when he sings that “your fortress of solitude’s no contest when you’re staring at oblivion” on “University Hill.” He explores reckless abandon with poise, acidic wordplay and a vast array of allusions on “The Raven,” a song that testifies to his staying power as one of the most consistently masterful writers in indie music. On the closer, he pulls together dense, thickly layered metaphors for emptiness, asking if he can fix “where the honeyed diamonds of the light leaving your eyes were.”

But Bejar’s lyricism peaks at the very beginning of the record, with the aforementioned “Crimson Tide.” Over a smooth, slap-bass filled synth-rock backdrop, Bejar jumps through similes, fits in a dirty joke or two here and there, and weaves deftly through turns of phrase like it’s nothing (my favorite here is “‘she says get in the zone,’ the zone is brimstone and wire”). Here, more than anywhere else, he sounds absolutely effortless, right at home in the lyrical world he’s created for himself, a world that only he could dream of creating. Bejar does it again.

Score: 🎤 🎤 🎤 🎤.5 / 5