Album Reviews: Destroyer's Rubies by DestroyerEven before The New Pornographers released an album called Twin Cinema, it was tempting to think of Dan Bejar as an auteur. He's got the look down, with his shaggy hair and director's beard. His vision is so specific that it seems almost claustrophobic in a democratic band setting, like it needs to be released into the wild (he is to The New Pornographers what Neil Young was to CSNY). Musically, Bejar's other band Destroyer embraces -- then condemns and then embraces again -- a flair for the theatrical, for the crowd-pleasing. Bejar's storytelling is as often as important to the fabric of his albums as his songwriting, and Destroyer's Rubies offers up some of his best work in both categories. It revives dying visions of the utopian city in which many of us dreamed of living, where arthouse theatres and used record stores thrive and where everyone is friendly and intelligent and, perhaps most importantly, mysterious.
He's not literally a filmmaker, of course, but Bejar gets the listener's internal projection reels rolling nonetheless. This starts immediately, with the nine-minute-plus opening odyssey of "Rubies," so full of twists that it feels like a whole EP in and of itself. Notice is served that the synthesized world of Your Blues has largely been left behind, and with it comes a return to the guitars (and the bandmates) of This Night.
Destroyer have the reputation for being difficult, and it's true that Destroyer's Rubies won't be a record most people would casually toss on while entertaining or relaxing. It's also true that, for all the inventiveness around it, Bejar's highly dramatic, somewhat strangled voice just won't lay right on some ears on some days. But there is eminent accessibility throughout, from the graceful "European Oils" to the indie-rock guitar-a-thon "3000 Flowers." You can unweave the dense lyrics in the verses, or you can just float along with the "la la la" choruses that are a Destroyer staple.
After seven albums, Destroyer are in their own space, but that doesn't discount the parallels with other songwriters. Bejar has Dylan's gift for really biting into certain words, chewing and stretching them, injecting them with wit or malice. On a more contemporary level, but in a very different genre, Cursive's Tim Kasher has also been obsessed with creating art about art, and injects plenty of self-deprecation into his metafictions. Those parallels aren't to say that Destroyer sounds like anyone else, because they don't really. Instead, they're just testaments that Bejar wouldn't be walking alone in that mythical city. -- Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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