Destroyer, Have We Met

I have been a fan of Dan Beijar’s work for some time now. Fittingly, a Destroyer show inaugurated this very website. Ever since a dear, dear friend drew me deep into a Kaputt obsession as we drove around East London from magnificent, little-known pub to magnificent, little-known pub, I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for this particular vagabond. That’s not to say I see Beijar as an unparalleled genius, however. Nonsensical lyrics can only get me so far. 

Where “I took a walk… and threw up in an English garden…” was delightfully incongruous on the aforementioned’s spectacular Bay of Pigs, new album Have We Met closer, Foolssong, features the atrocious opening gambit, “And with what shall I fix the hole in the bucket, dear Liza?”

Having dived right into this review by starting at the end, and giving little scope for contextual analysis, perhaps this review will follow a similar, stream-of-conscious, rambling style to Beijar… or perhaps it won’t. Does it matter? What is lyricism, today? Is “I kissed a girl and I liked it” that much more risible than “clickety-click-click, the music makes a musical sound” (yes, those are lyrics from this album)? Perhaps from this perspective, it’s no wonder indie music appears to be struggling.

“Pop” isn’t a word that comes rushing to mind when one thinks of Destroyer, and yet this was my first thought as those first piano notes hit my eardrums during Crimson Tide, the opening track of this latest record. Now, don’t get me wrong – we sort of opened with a bit of an evisceration here, but that was merely to clear the air – Crimson Tide is a sensational song, and Have We Met is an excellent album.

Questionable lyricism aside, Have We Met sees Destroyer return with new production sensibilities (provided by bandmate John Collins) that deepen his somewhat-’80s nostalgic sonic tendencies, decorating them with, yes, more pop and new wave flourishes. In interviews, Beijar has dwelled on the fact that this album is much “darker” than previous Destroyer records. As someone born in the darkness, I’ve struggled to match these comments to any kind of aural reality, but I’ll take Dan at his word (I thought Ken was a darker record).

To this Snob’s mind, this album is Destroyer’s most mainstream yet – in terms of production – and that’s no bad thing. It Just Doesn’t Happen is a personal favourite, and it’s pure “hit” material – a catchy, streaming culture-optimised hook kicks things off quickly, and the entire song floats in a dreamy euphoria that conjures images of a happy Beijar pinching himself at his own good fortune (he’s a moderately commercially-successful artist), supported by Flock Of Seagulls-esque guitar. He might disagree with this reading of his work, but then again he’s comfortable writing “Just look at the world around you⏤actually, no, don’t look!” so I’ll allow myself to lean on my intuition here, as I believe Destroyer’s true intention across his work  – similar to 1920’s French surrealist automatism – is to allow the free-form lyrics to establish their own tangential and personal meanings in the listener’s head. Either way, it’s a great song.

Not all is Pop. Several other tracks on the album are more vintage Destroyer and are some of the finest tracks on the album. Swelling, atmospheric pad-led ruminations that form his signature sound now give way to more electronica at the forefront. The Raven is standout in this regard as both an exceptional album track, but also one of the strongest Destroyer tracks to-date. Kinda Dark and The Man in Black’s Blues conjured similar appreciation, with the latter in particular betraying some rare, hidden depth to Beijar’s lyricism amidst some delightfully sultry arrangement and melody.

Destoyer will always be Destoyer in this regard. Lyrically divisive to some listeners, his songs as a whole continue to enthrall this Snob, and I find myself happily recommending this album as an addition to any self-respecting music fan’s collection. A good three-odd weeks into digesting Beijar’s work as a whole (and several months since lead single Crimson Tide was released), I still find myself happily putting this record on throughout the day and trust you will, too.