Destroyer: Have We Met (Merge) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, February 28th, 2020  

Destroyer

Have We Met

Merge

Jan 31, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Crimson Tide; a 1995 blockbuster drama somewhat inspired by the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps inspires the name, if nothing else, for the opening track of Destroyer's 12th album Have We Met. Why exactly, as with most things Dan Bejar, remains a mystery. One listen to "Crimson Tide" (the song)a six minute surrealist romp through Bejar's stream of consciousnesswill tell you that he remains obsessed with characters who are down on their luck. For years, the world of Destroyer has been populated with the stories of washed-up actors and ageing lotharios weighing up one last roll of the dicethe sort of stories Bejar himself has acknowledged as "typical Destroyer shit."

The references in Bejar's songs have often followed a loose dream-like logic. With that in mind, "Crimson Tide" feels as connected to the Cuban Missile Crisis as Destroyer's 2009 epic "Bay of Pigs" was connected to the failed invasion of Cuba which inspired its name. But at the very least, both events seem to appeal to Bejar's interests in human folly and our destructive potential. Those interests make him a fitting lyricist for the current moment.

Have We Met was originally conceived as a Y2K tribute, based on the works of Björk, Air, and Massive Attack around the turn of the century. The idea was quickly abandoned, although traces of it remain on "The Man in Black's Blues." Instead, Bejar and his collaborators have found a middle ground between the sophisti-pop style of 2011's Kaputt and the New Wave punch of 2017's Ken. The album's title is possibly an admission that long-time Destroyer fans may sense that they've encountered this version of the band before. 

Yet, even after more than 20 years of recordings, Bejar remains a delightfully unpredictable and inscrutable writer. From Have We Met's opening lines, he is on striking form, as his narrator describes himself as "like the laziest river, a vulture predisposed to eating off floors." Then, in the first of a number of left-turns through this album, he changes his mind. "No wait, I take that back/I was more like an ocean stuck inside hospital corridors." Later, on in "The Raven"a wistful number filled with oddly beautiful turns of phrasehe tells a companion: "I hope you've enjoyed your stay, here in the City of the Dying Embers." There are also times when he wanders close to self-parodysee the "clickety click click" on "The Television Music Supervisor"but for the most part, Bejar has mastered his brand of surreal lyricism. He was right when he said recently that he has never sounded more comfortable.

Musically too, Destroyer haven't sounded this dynamic and versatile in nearly a decade. On "Kinda Dark," Bejar's references to serial killers are punctuated by clattering drums and an unsettling razor-sharp guitar solo, while the soft bed of synths and MIDI horns on "foolssong" guides one of Destroyer's most moving album closers to date.

Although Destroyer's work has rarely been overtly political, it has at least been aware of its surroundings. The ominous tone of Have We Met is telling of the "100 seconds to midnight" hysteria of 2020a time in which it cannot seem possible for things to get any worse and yet they invariably do. It makes this album Destroyer's most contemporary record since the start of the last decade, when Kaputt's "party's over" atmosphere touched a nerve in the post-crash years. On Have We Met, Bejar responds to a world on fire with a strange, and at times unnerving, calm. The absurdity of this moment suits him well. (www.destroyer.bandcamp.com)

Author rating: 8/10

Rate this album
Average reader rating: 8/10



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.