Thirteen albums in and Dan Bejar‘s Destroyer project isn’t letting up any time soon.
His latest instalment, Have We Met, may just contain his most morose set of songs since he began two decades ago in 1998 with his debut, City of Daughters.
Brought up on a diet of French cinema and 19th and 20th century literature, lyrically, Bejar has always produced abstract material. His fascination for words and fey obscurity will always be his greatest weapon – “when lightning strikes twice/the funeral goes absolutely insane” (Crimson Tide) and “Calling all cars/The palace has a moss problem/It glows in the dawn light/Goes wherever you go/Sewn into your hem/It’s me versus them.” (Kinda Dark).
Bejar‘s hazy diatribes are usually backed by carefully orchestrated pastiche soundscapes, but on Have We Met, if anything, we hear Destroyer actually sounding like Destroyer. It sounds both ancient and fresh.
His landmark album, 2011’s Kaputt gave a heavy nod to glam and soft-rock, while 2015’s Poison Season brimmed with heartland rockers and Springsteen homage. Sounds that have their way of nestling into your subsections and staying there limitless amounts of time.
2017’s Ken leaned heavily on New Order‘s elusively distorted shards that pierced you directly in the heart. That’s always been Bejar‘s greatest strength and on Have We Met he once again delivers fleeting abstract synths and cherry-picked guitar riffs that send shivers down your spine. Look no further than the riff on opening number, the dance floor-skirting Crimson Tide.
This is Bejar at his best.
Kinda Dark is an electric dirge that’s been put through the glam mincer. There’s a sunken gloom that even by Bejar standards finds the darkest corners available.
The melodic synth running through It Just Doesn’t Happen traps you into believing you’ve heard the track a million times. But you haven’t.
Again, it’s Bejar‘s uncanny ability to instantly seek refuge in the cerebral cortex of your brain. His melodies are as contagious as coronavirus.
The Television Music Supervisor is an off-kilter ambient number that feels inspired by Radiohead‘s Kid A. Once again, Bejar‘s abstract kitchen table musings are on show (“Measured in echoes/By famous novelist brothers/Shithead No. 1 and Shithead No. 2.”).
“Just look at the world around you/actually no don’t look,” sings Bejar to begin The Raven. The shimmering percussions, swirling synths and rich guitar licks during this song cast it as one of Bejar’s finest songs every written. It’s certainly his most atmospheric and producer and Destroyer bandmate, John Collins, deserves a lot of credit for how Have We Met has crept behind the studio walls.
While Kaputt saw Bejar lay down the vocals whilst lying on his couch, a lot of Have We Met‘s vocals where recorded while occupied at his kitchen table late at night while his wife and child were asleep.
Speaking on Have We Met, Bejar stated that the album “came together in such a crazy way – all equal parts ecstasy and terror”.
You can feel it, too, particularly on closing track, Foolssong, which is a fine number that has a loose Dennis Wilson air about it.
It’s a song that concludes an eerie post-apocalyptic feel that develops during the backend of Have We Met, where Bejar‘s vocals seem to simmer below the mix. Already considered as the prince of pessimism, here he is arguably at his most downbeat.
Preceding Foolsong is University Hill. An incongruent ditty that seems like a square peg in a round hole. Ironically, it’s very much a Destroyer song. Bejar has carved out a thirteen album career unleashing these kind of curve balls.
So too with the title track. Most would associate such moments as comprising with a lyrical golden nugget, not just a two minute forty-five second instrumental.
Again, this is Dan Bejar we’re talking about here. A bourgeois drifter that has spent an existence swimming against the tide whilst carving out his own thoughts. A master of independent thought.
Reading interviews in the lead up to Have We Met‘s release and it was obvious that Bejar was in a far more pensive mood than his previous albums of the last decade. Like he has grown comfortable in the discontent around him. There seems to be a sudden acceptance.
It’s suggested that Daniel Bejar is serenading the apocalypse on Have We Met, but his sharp prescience and sneering cynicism for the world already places him contently dancing alone after it.