Destroyer - Ken

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:10 Release Date:2017-10-20
Destroyer - Ken
Destroyer - Ken

I can think of three possibilities why somebody would be reading a review of the new Destroyer album, ken. You love Destroyer, his tongue-in-cheek stage/artist name, and his music and you want confirmation of your views. You absolutely detest Destroyer, his posturing, irritating voice and cryptic lyrics and want a confirmation of your views. You know nothing of Destroyer, have heard conflicting stories, have never heard his music and wonder who would call himself that unless he wants to play any form of heavy metal.

You see, anybody who has heard at least a slice of Dan Bejar’s (aka Destroyer) music is not going to be indifferent to it - Bejar knows nothing of middle ground and doesn’t want to have anything to do with it, whether it is his music or his lyrics, and that has been the case right from when he started out back in the mid-Nineties, through his own albums, or the ones he recorded as one of the members/composers/singers of New Pornographers. If you leave his earlier efforts aside and start off with Streethawk: A Seduction throughout the last 16 years or so, we have a series of exemplary albums from a guy with an intriguing voice, cryptic lyrics and absolutely perfect, sophisticated music that represents a desirable cross between standard singer/songwriters, Berlin period David Bowie, and almost anything else in between, from jazz brass arrangements to quotes from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

Speaking of which, again this is yet another great addition to Destroyers' opus that personally ranks with other personal favorites of his (2004 Yer Blues, 2006 Destroyer’s Rubies, and 2015 Poison Season). Bejar explained it when he spoke about his inspiration for this album, “Sometime last year, I discovered that the original name for 'The Wild Ones' (one of the great English-language ballads of the last 100 years or so) was 'ken.' I had an epiphany, I was physically struck by this information. In an attempt to hold on to this feeling, I decided to lift the original title of that song and use it for my own purposes. It’s unclear to me what that purpose is, or what the connection is. I was not thinking about Suede when making this record. I was thinking about the last few years of the Thatcher era. Those were the years when music first really came at me like a sickness, I had it bad. Maybe 'The Wild Ones' speaks to that feeling, probably why Suede made no sense in America. I think 'ken' also means 'to know.'"

Musically, the album continues on that hardest road of modern pop Destroyer has taken - fitting in as much innovation into the form’s strict codes and making it as listenable as possible. Again, he is able to hit the sweet spot. Then comes the question of Bejar’s voice and lyrics. As far as his voice is concerned, you either like it or not, no middle ground there, so in a way, you could call it an acquired taste. When we speak of his lyrics, like with bands such as Steely Dan, all it requires is a bit of effort and even if not everything is personally understandable, so what? Don’t tell me you understood everything Dylan Thomas (or that other Dylan, the Nobel prize winner) wanted to say. The comparison might be too much for some, but lets at least say that Dan Bejar knows his way around words.

In contrast to his previous album Poison Season that was an extended affair, Bejar keeps things much shorter (under 40 mins.) this time around, but whether that is good or bad is another question to add to the Dan Bejar debate. As far as I’m concerned, it is simply great to have another Destroyer album to break my head with.

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