By DAN MACINTOSH
Dan Bejar says he titled this latest Destroyer album ken because “ken” was the working title to Suede’s lovely song “The Wild Ones.” Such knowledge may make you listen to Bejar’s music with new ears; or at least better-informed ones. Your ears won’t tell you, though, that ken is some kind of Suede tribute album.
While it would be pushing the point too far to assume Destroyer’s new music is primarily influenced by Suede’s mid-90s output, one can nevertheless pick out a few distinctly Britpop inspired sounds running through the album. For example, the synthesizer pulse propelling “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood” hearkens back to New Order at their best. This track is followed by something entirely different, however, as “Cover from the Sun” is powered by lovely, jangling electric guitar.
“Saw You at the Hospital” is a stripped-down recording where Bejar is mainly accompanied by a strummed guitar. Its words paint a dark picture of someone with severe mental problems, and one assumes the ‘hospital’ mentioned in it, is a mental ward of some kind.
In many respects, Bejar’s lyrics bear a strong resemblance to those of Suede’s Brett Anderson. Especially because Anderson has never been afraid to paint honest pictures, blemishes and all. “A Light Travels Down the Catwalk,” for instance, includes the line, “Strike an empty pose.” It’s obviously a criticism aimed at the oftentimes cruel fashion business, and is a song that – especially lyrically – would sit well next to Leonard Cohen’s “First We Take Manhattan.”
Destroyer’s Dan Bejar Sounds Like Brett Anderson
Bejar’s vocal tone is eerily like Anderson’s during “Stay Lost.” He also recalls Anderson during “Ivory Coast,” but oddly, his voice on this latter one sounds like Anderson’s one minute, then it cracks a little, like Conor Oberst’s, the next. The song includes the tragic line, “Good things come to those who wait forever,” implying goodness is, well, hardly worth the wait at all. The track is placed atop a throbbing, bass-y synth line, and throws in a saxophone solo.
With ken, Destroyer has created dark and quirky album. And while it may not be the same immediately pleasurable power-pop we’ve come to expect from Dan Bejar, it nevertheless packs a powerful punch.