Thursday, March 20, 2008

Album Review:
Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams

Destroyer - Trouble in Dreams

(Merge, 2008)


"Shooting Rockets" [mp3]

Listening to the latest from Destroyer (aka Dan Bejar), I've come to confirm and/or realize a few things about the man.

1. He is a lyrical madman genius.

2. He just might be the lifeblood of the New Pornographers.

3. The man's a risk taker, and yet, amazingly consistent.

In fact, though Trouble in Dreams may not stake out new territory after 2006's phenomenal Destroyer's Rubies, I cannot fault the man for what is essentially a good follow-up. This may sound like an insult, but TID is also my latest contender for 2008's "Best Track from a Mediocre Album" contest.

Let's take a look at the album's arc. TID opens with the day-dreamy "Blue Flower/Blue Flame." Longtime Destroyer fans will note how decidedly pleasant this song and its successors can be on the ears. The most rabid fans may even use the term boring. I'd land somewhere in between the two: certainly "Blue Flame" is positively slayed by Rubies' dynamic nine-minute opener, though I would not call these opening tracks bad. "Foam Hands," the album's first single, is perhaps the strongest example of a track straddling this divide. Once more, we have a song that is gorgeously crafted, melodic, and disappointingly predictable.

The two-track centerpiece that follows should silence -- or at least distract -- the album's biggest critics. "My Favorite Year" reads like a postcard to a former self, a diary entry in one's own unrecognizable handwriting. There's the little freak-out in the middle of the song, punctuated by my favorite line (come on, chicks are suckers for hearing their names in songs):

"Nicole - she, blasted on ecstasy / in some East Pendar hovel circa 1993. / It was a good year, it was a very good year. / And now it's gone, / they're saying the whole point of everything's the 'moving on.' / Well, I can't help but feel somewhat opposed to this."

Beautiful. The follow-up, "Shooting Rockets," is a re-envisioned version of the Swan Lake track (the band of which Bejar comprises 1/3). This version's much cleaner both vocally and musically, as well as a full minute longer, leaving the track with a renewed sense of drama. Lest I forget the lovely line, "A chorus is a thing that bears repeating."

The remainder of the album treads back into the pleasant tenor of its first half, with far spottier results. "Introducing Angels" is one of the weakest Destroyer songs I've heard. "Plaza Trinidad" is a dizzying trifle, though it's nice to see Bejar regain some spark at this point in the album. Thankfully TID rebounds with its closer, "Libby's First Sunrise." While also falling into the hazy/listless category, its swirling guitars reminiscent of "My Favorite Year" do much to leave the listener recalling the album's strengths.

Interestingly, I imagine TID will be a big hit amongst those who've had an interest in Bejar's music but may have seen him as too quirky, too spastic, too much. Here's hoping he doesn't forget about the rest of us.

No comments: