Album Review: Destroyer – ken

By Eli Schoop, Copy Editor
[Merge; 2017]
Rating: 5/10

Key Tracks: “Tinseltown Swimming In Blood”, “A Light Travels Down The Catwalk”

Let’s get one thing straight; this album is not as good as “Bay of Pigs”. Theoretically, that’s a downer to start the review on, however, Dan Bejar’s magnum opus deserves to be appreciated by the widest audience possible, and ken does not. It might be comparing apples and oranges to reference a song that’s the sonic equivalent of a Wim Wenders movie to what Bejar calls his “goth record”, but considering the high standards we’ve come to expect from the New Pornographers alumni, ken does not cut it.

Part of the appeal that Destroyer has always had is the allure of the seductive smooth jazz lifestyle. Bejar may not be the Miami Vice-looking, Testarossa-driving stud of the 80s image-wise, but he evokes a wistful sensibility that downplays the flash and finds the melancholic backside of an otherwise flamboyant lyrical atmosphere. If you remove the dissonance between the sly melodies and the pensive words, all you get is a drab treatise on the musings of daily life. Gated reverb can’t save what are uninspired songs in the first place, and judging by Bejar’s voice on this album, he seems to realize this too.

Sometimes you want to be less Steely Dan and more The Cure. It’s an understandable change in tone, given the mid-40s rigor that Bejar must be going through. Alas, the nature of the content can’t keep up with the artist’s emotional state, as ken repeatedly falls flat in a sleepy malaise. For someone who has devoured change throughout his career, Bejar is left stupefied for the first time, trawling through the mud musically. But for a luminary, one such blemish is no cause for concern. Just please Dan, bring back the alto saxophone.

Listen here:

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