“Why’s everybody sing along/ when we built this city on ruins?”
This question posed by Destroyer frontman Dan Bejar in the song “Poor in Love” embodies a major accomplishment of Kaputt
, the band’s 10th album. In dissecting the music, one finds a barrage of poetic but half-formed thoughts, synthesizers, jazz melodies, social commentary and other bold juxtapositions, but Destroyer achieves an effortlessly smooth, infectious delivery of these elements with Kaputt
Bejar, a Canadian singer-songwriter who also sings and plays several instruments for The New Pornographers, exemplifies his adept creativity in Kaputt
. At once an indie-pop album and an experimental soft-rock affair with jazz and electronic elements, Kaputt
is dreamlike and playful in its unique, ambient energy. Even amidst longer and more orchestral tracks, Bejar’s gentle voice mellows out the music for a soothing balance akin to the music of fellow Canadians in Broken Social Scene; the vocals provide a conversational anchor while the dreamy music sails in all directions.
The album opens with “Chinatown,” a charming combination of acoustic guitar, ambient synths and an occasional burst of saxophone with intermittent female vocals by Sibel Thrasher in which lovers sing about being unable to walk away from each other. Like much of the album, it creates a sort of trippy magic from the familiar hooks and rhythms of ‘80s pop-rock in the vein of David Bowie. The more melancholy “Blue Eyes” remains lighthearted through similarly conversational lyrics and soulful background vocals: “jacked-up sorrow, I want you to love me / you sent me a coffin of roses / I guess that’s the way things go these days.”
The lyrical style of Kaputt
is distinct and hits upon insightful one-liners but refuses to linger too long in one train of thought. Bejar frequently breaks cycles of pensive repetition with joyfully tangential lyrics, as he describes in “Savage Night at the Opera”: “a quatrain etched on a turnstile / to etch the loop and then go wild.” His honest, unfinished delivery prevents the album’s cynical, societal critiques on decadence and prejudice from becoming too heavy-handed.
The songs loiter through a world that is enigmatic even to the singer but retains a very personal dimension: “You travel light every night / you arrive at the conclusion of the world’s unutterable secrets.”
“Suicide Demo for Kara Walker,” for which lyrics were co-written by the artist referenced in the title, describes the tragedy of societal apathy toward ambiguous longings and fears of individuals: “And as proud Americans, we let it slide away.” Dark lyrics are here accompanied by hauntingly bright instrumentals and interjections of a saxophone amidst a lulling rhythm. At over eight minutes, the song remains a chronicle of telling moments rather than a social diatribe.
The album ends on a buoyant note with “Bay of Pigs,” a floaty disco-infused hymn to the rhythm of life. With rolling undertones of island music and more energetic synthesizer phrases, this long, sprawling song neatly embodies the unique state of mind induced by the album.
The genre-bending music of Destroyer has reached a maturation of richly textured innovation in Kaputt
. Furthermore, it provides a huge relief not to see Bejar and bandmates taking themselves too seriously. Perhaps self-referentially, he sings in “Savage Night at the Opera”: “Hey Mr. Prince of the pearly wet night / I heard your record, it’s all right.” Kaputt
reaches far beyond the bounds of ‘all right’ into undiscovered territory.
— Contact Nicole Azores-Gococo