Destroyer romps through the ’80s with Kaputt

Did you ever notice that the longer you sit in the waiting room at the doctor’s office the more appealing those smooth soft-rock sounds become? You know perfectly well that this music is not what you want to hear, it really gets under your skin, but what can you do? You try and tune it out while flipping through a well worn copy of a three month old Newsweek. Soon enough, right in the middle of an article detailing a vitally important news nugget, you find yourself really getting into those smooth grooves. You really want to go wash your hands or something, but what good will it do? That melody has already moved in and changed the wallpaper at that point. Christopher Cross, Michael McDonald or maybe Billy Joel now owns a small piece of you. Destroyer’s latest album, Kaputt, feels much the same to me.

Kaputt finds Destroyer, the moniker of Dan Bejar and selected friends, skipping behind the pied-piper of indie rock down the now well-worn path of rehashed ’80s sounds. There are even shadows of the smooth rock of the late ’70s at play here. The opening track, “Chinatown” is a solid song. It’s got the ’80s feel, the vocals work nicely. Then it starts to get a bit out of hand. A lot of these songs sound like your typical Dan Bejar melody layered on top of heavily New Order-inspired synths and drum beats. Ok, so it feels a bit put on at this point, but I can still get into it. The problem comes in with the horns, sax and flute bits that continue to pop up. This problem comes to a head on the fourth track, “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker.” Imagine the Bejar fronted New Order picking up some unused horn parts from one of Paul McCartney’s mid-’80s records, like Pipes of Peace, or Press to Play. Yikes. Strange thing is, by the fifth song, “Poor in Love,” Bejar and company have roped me back in.

Lyrically, Kaputt is a solid Destroyer record. These songs are full of Bejar’s playfully cryptic imagery. Every song is a puzzle wrapped up in a strange kind of poetry. The trick is listening past the music to get to the lyrics. While Destroyer’s new musical direction seems to help Bejar’s voice and words jump out of the songs more than usual, they almost sparkle too much. Unfortunately Kaputt sounds like Bejar is trying channel the ’80s and in trying a bit too hard makes the album sound a bit phony. Also, at several points on Kaputt, I couldn’t help but imagine the songs being sung by Russell Brand’s character in Get Him to the Greek.

Overall, I don’t even know what to say about Kaputt. I hate it on one listen and love it the next. Figuring that the third time will certainly be the charm, I find that I love parts of it and hate others….and those parts change every time. Lyrically this album hits the mark; musically, it’s beautifully played, but I find it confusing and uncomfortable at times. Like so many Michael McDonald songs before it, Kaputt is stuck in my head. I’m not sure if I really want it to be there, but it looks like it’s staying.

Destroyer – “Chinatown” [MP3]

Buy Kaputt now on Merge.

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