Review: Destroyer – Poison Season



4 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

destroyer-poisonseasonDan Bejar is living proof that there’s a thin line between creativity and obsession, and I mean that in the very best way. The guy is a font of creativity. Since 1996 he has not only been a major contributor on seven albums by one of the most distinct and acclaimed indie bands around, the New Pornographers, he has also generated 15 albums and EPs for his solo project, Destroyer, as well as a couple of albums as a duo called Hello Blue Roses.

As befitting a creative/obsessive mind, his musical output has been all over the map stylistically, drilling down through a range of ‘70s, ‘80s, and international idioms in the search for new combinations of sounds. And the journey continues apace on Poison Season.

On this album, the elements he obsesses over include explorations with a double string quartet, Springsteenian anthems, ‘70s cops show theme music, and latin rhythms. As always, this Destroyer album is full of surprises.

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There are some brilliant ideas thrown into the pot, but maybe a few too many at times, because the flavors don’t always blend together. “Forces From Above” begins with an intoxicating combination of string quartet, pulsating bass, and congas, a perfect bed for his distinctive vocals, which lie somewhere in between 70’s twee pioneer Al Stewart and Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes.

But the song switches gears into a salsa-type rhythm, and the effect is jarring and unnecessary. The songs that work best are the ones that keep the style changes to a minimum. “Girl In A Sling” is a breathtakingly beautiful strings-only melody. The piano-based “Bangkok” has a gorgeous horn arrangement, and “Archer On The Beach” is a groovy Steely Dan-like slow jam.

Bejar writes compellingly about love and alienation in the big city, and ultimately he tends to fall on the side of optimism, befitting the uplift of most of the melodies. Perhaps the best song on the album is “Times Square”, a jaunty number that sounds like a North American Belle and Sebastian:

Jesus is beside himself
Jacob’s in a state of decimation
The writing on the wall wasn’t writing at all
Just forces of nature in love with a weather station

Judy’s beside herself
Jack’s in a state of desolation
The writing on the wall wasn’t writing at all
Just forces of nature in love with a radio station

You can follow a rose wherever it grows
Yeah, you can fall in love with Times Square
Times Square

Here’s the thing: there are three versions of “Times Square” on this record, string versions that open and close the album, plus this one. If that’s not evidence of obsession, I don’t know what is. But so what, we’re all obsessed in one way or another, aren’t we? This is a fascinating record, and I think more things will fall into place the more you listen to it.

Release Date: August 28, 2015

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  1. Pingback: I Love These Two New Songs From The New Pornographers | Rocknuts

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