A beautiful sense of irony envelops the work of Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Bejar. The moniker Destroyer seems like a fitting antonym to an artist who perpetually redefines his style. Since releasing We’ll Build Them A Golden Bridge in 1995, Bejar has embarked on an expansive exploration of sound, transcending categorisation like a prophetic musical chameleon. 2011 sees the arrival of the much-anticipated ninth studio album Kaputt; an album admirable if only for its amalgamation of genres as conflicting as honesty in politics. With brass sections replicating the chaotic cadences of jazz weaving with the effulgence of ’80s pop, Bejar’s latest effort certainly seeks to redefine the term “creative crossover”.
‘Blue Eyes’ opens in familiar territory forming a crossroads between Bowie and The Cure before veering off the map into the untraversed frontiers of free jazz. Bejar’s evocative imagery finds its harmonic counterpart in Sibel Thrasher’s dulcet tones; the intermingling vocal lines lead stream of consciousness into a candescent chorus. The underlying funk rhythm provides a stable base for the brass section’s detached diatonic runs, adding a semblance of spontaneity to the mix.
The phaser-fuelled scratch of guitar strings ushers in ‘Savage Night At The Opera’; a pastiche of the ’80s shoegazing new wave replete with taut drum machine fills and repetitive, reverb-heavy guitar riffs. The synth swirls complete this slice of retro pop creating a song as haunting as an acid trip at the homecoming rally. ‘Suicide Demo For Kara Walker’ dedicates its first two minutes to a painful pan flute intro. The clarinet-driven middle eight propels the song into a jazzy conclusion that’s sure to unsettle some listeners while luring others into the throes of tonal ecstasy.
‘Poor In Love’ finds a middle ground between Bryan Ferry’s nasal nuances and the early output of U2. Teeming with acute cultural references, the song’s slow-burning pace casts Bejar’s musings in a more sombre and reflective light, capturing the melancholia of his forebears. As we flow on a wave of nostalgia towards the halfway mark, a faint suggestion of superficiality rises to the surface. While Bejar’s clever correlation of genres conceals the frayed edges, one cannot help but think this irony merely veils a vacuum buried beneath the polish.
Title track ‘Kaputt’ creates an intriguing series of counterpoints between guitar and saxophone, coupled with the backing vocals of Sibel Thrasher once again. And yet, the piece flows amicably into its successors without leaving a lasting impression. Likewise, ‘Downtown’ and ‘Song for America’ maintain the same ‘Pavement meets acid jazz’ juxtaposition that characterises the entire collection, concluding an album as ambiguous as Bowie’s androgyny phase.
Like the litany of merchants currently pilfering the musical attic of the ’80s, Bejar’s ninth outing ultimately fails in maintaining a balance between imitation and originality, leaving a well-produced yet unfulfilled copy of what could have been. Pastiche as an art form lures its audience with the promise of the familiar only to reveal something utterly new in the performance. Kaputt creates an offering made up of little more than recycled revelations.