Aug 25, 2015 Issue #54 - August/September 2015 - CHVRCHES
Listeners never know what a new Destroyer album will sound like. Much of that is by design, of course—mastermind Dan Bejar is known to try to totally revamp the act's sound with each record. But from album to album, that uncertainty can grow frustrating, particularly in follow-ups to well-received and well-reviewed albums. Bejar, who in interviews seems as annoyed by popularity and press as prime-era Bob Dylan, enjoys subverting expectations to such a degree that at times it feels like he's intentionally getting rid of some good ideas because they sound too much like the last album.
That sense of frustration lives in Poison Season, the follow up to 2011's glorious Kaputt. Where Kaputt was a summer-y ode to yacht rock, Poison Season seems to draw from two primary influences: orchestral ballads and '80s dad rock. While the dad rock is a mostly welcome extension to Kaputt's tropical palette (think of it as moving from Christopher Cross to Steely Dan, and you get the idea—and yes, that's a high compliment), the classical flourishes can come across as forced and a bit awkward. "Times Square, Poison Season 1" plods along, a crime for an opener, and "Girl in a Swing" showcases Bejar's voice trying to do things it just can't do. Even some of the more overt pop numbers falter, as "Midnight Meet the Rain" sounds like the intro to a '70s cop drama.
But, this is still a Destroyer album, so in the end, its moments of magic are worth the time investment. Bejar is as word-drunk as ever, with lyrics tumbling over and under beats-you're sure to find some ear worm-y some of the new sounds work well: "Hell"'s jaunty back half is toe-tapping, "Solace's Bride" and "Sun in the Sky" marry the album's two influences to lovely effect, and "The River" sticks with you long after the album ends.
As Destroyer, Bejar probably isn't capable of making a bad album. But when you know he's capable of making a great album, sometimes a "not-bad" effort stands out. That's the cloud Poison Season is under—it's not bad, and it certainly has its moments. But on the heels of Kaputt, it can be a frustrating, uneven listen. (www.mergerecords.com/destroyer)
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10
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