Albums, Music, The Revue — October 26, 2017 at 5:35 am

Destroyer – ‘ken’ (album review)

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Canadian musician Dan Bejar makes lush, chameleonic art rock as Destroyer. On ken, his 12th album since forming Destroyer in 1995, Bejar pairs vintage elements with modern musings to create one of the year’s most enjoyable albums.

Since Bejar is an artist with few peers, ken is an album with few, if any, rivals. There is no denying Bejar’s unique sound. No other modern performer can effortlessly channel New Order, Roxy Music, and David Bowie in equal measure. This gives him a sort of “mid-Atlantic” sound that owes as much to Manchester as his Vancouver hometown. This is part of Destroyer’s appeal: the music occupies a loftier plane than mainstream fare. It’s cosmopolitan yet accessible; it’s high-minded without being too highbrow. It resonates with thinkers, poets, and romantics. Bejar seems content to orbit a realm of aloof detachment and let his fans come to him rather than releasing albums with a broader commercial appeal. Still, if any work in his discography can convert casual or first-time listeners into diehard fans, it’s ken.

Unlike Destroyer’s two most recent LPs – Poison Season (2015) and Kaputt (2011) – ken leans more heavily on ’80s New Wave influences. Bejar isn’t trying to emulate New Order, though his indebtedness to (and appreciation of) Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook is clear. (On “Savage Night at the Opera” from Kaputt, he tipped his hat to them by humming the “Age of Consent” melody.) You don’t hear their influence as much on the mellow, cinematic opener (“Sky’s Grey”) since it sets the tone for the album.

But those grey skies are inescapable on the next two tracks, “In the Morning” and “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood.” Here, Bejar paints a blank canvas with broad brushstrokes of New Order and The Cure, incorporating swells of moody synths. “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood” is easily the album’s strongest offering. It could be a B-side to the classic New Order anthem “Your Silent Face” since both share sonic similarities:

The more upbeat “Cover From the Sun” has a Roxy Music-esque glam vibe that featured prominently on Poison SeasonAt just over two minutes in length, it’s brief yet potent. Where the opening tracks are best savored like an aged red wine, “Cover From the Sun” is a more of a light aperitif.

Bejar beckons, “Come one, come all, dear young revolutionary capitalists” at the album’s open and concludes with the politically-inspired, electronic-tinged “La Regle du Jeu” (“rules of the game”). This pointed take on American current affairs mentions “a pig of a man” and “a roll of the dice in a world that is bawling and totally loaded” – discouraging imagery that would be glum if not paired with a spirited tempo and a scorching guitar solo at the bridge. Bejar’s choice to end the album here leaves the listener with plenty to think about, proving why he’s not only one of the foremost modern musical artists but also a preeminent voice of his generation.

ken is out now via Merge Records from these streaming and purchase links. Destroyer kicks off a full band tour of Europe and North America on November 12 in Germany. Full details are available here.

Follow Destroyer at: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Track Listing:

  1. Sky’s Grey
  2. In the Morning
  3. Tinseltown Swimming in Blood
  4. Cover From the Sun
  5. Saw You at the Hospital
  6. A Light Travels Down the Catwalk
  7. Rome
  8. Sometimes in the World
  9. Ivory Coast
  10. Stay Lost
  11. La Regle du Jeu

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