Dan Bejar, the man behind the musical entity Destroyer, has always been the master of apt sarcastic, lyrical ennui set to engaging sonics. On January 31st under his Destroyer moniker, he will release his inspired thirteenth album “Have We Met”. The new recording displays Bejar mixing up his musical approach, almost entirely abandoning the sonics from his last release 2017’s “Ken”. He switches up from the guitar, rock band approach of “Ken” opting instead for electronics, and a journey into solitude.
“Have We Met” was initially conceived as a concept album but early on that idea was scrapped. The release instead turned into a collection of let rip brainstorming sessions recorded late at night at Bejar’s kitchen table. Overall the album harkens back to his “Kaput” era as it hits the sweet spot; weaving together the best bits from the past, adding emphatic middle career moments and blending in his latest fresh vibe. The result is Bejar ends up with an offering filled with equal parts of comfort, ecstasy and terror conveyed with his ever laconic vocals.
The creation of “Have We Met” began with Bejar culling tracks from years’ worth of saved projects. The album has a crisp and clean sound that actually belies the fact there was little touch-up and many of the 10 tracks were one takes. After completing what Bejar believed to be guiding demos he sent off his work to frequent collaborator John Collins. Collins then took over coordinating the rhythm sections and layering synths; after which guitarist Nic Bragg contributed the intuitive guitar work on the release. The recording process drew to a close with the masters being sent off a mere 48 hours before Bejar and wife headed off to the birthing centre for the arrival of their first child.
On “Have We Met” Bejar mixes dark with light, funny with distressing and what seems strange yet comfortingly familiar. Throughout Bejar damns artifice and holds forth on a wide array of emotions and experiences. The recording captures Bejar doing what he does best, mixing the trademark and new territory. He brilliantly captures energy vs. ennui, providing thematic catharsis about modern dread; all recorded with seeming effortless directness. The first track “Crimson Tide” is quintessential Bejar. Atmospheric synths, moody spatial bass and icy pianos guide the listener into an examination of doubts and mistakes. Bejar artfully juxtaposes catchphrases with reality to make for a stream of consciousness monologue that highlights daily realizations.
The minimalist track “Kinda Dark” holds forth with industrialized grit and a fantastic spiralling guitar that sets the scene for a whirlpool of dread and terror. Bejar posits an occasion where an individual’s dark Goth nature meets true evil sitting next to a serial killer, in this case, the Boston Strangler. From that dark track, Bejar moves on to “It Just Doesn’t Happen” an 80’s New Wave creation with mellifluous synths. Examined is the idea that life does not work out like the movies, pointing out that fate will not allow you to realize your dreams, the job, that break or romantic relationship. The delight of the track is the contrast between the 80’s energy-filled vibe and the harsh reality of the lyrics, as per usual delivered with Bejar’s lackadaisical vocal.
A definite “do not miss track” of the album is “Television Music Supervisor”. The explosive panoramic sonic belies the narrative of the title character’s regret for his prior actions in helping oppress and censor creativity. The character attempts to wash away his guilt over assisting in totalitarianism. It is a chilling look at how the “few” control the many. The Raven” could be said to draw its inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe’s classic poem. I find it more of a launching pad for where Bejar goes with the short track. The diamond-cut synths and piano work filled out with an inspired guitar, as the track questions if you can take in the enormous tragedy that is life. Bejar points out he is not alone in finding it easier to look away than to acknowledge the pain of reality. “Cue Synthesizer” is a master class in industrial synth-funk, I kept thinking Niles Rodgers was somewhere in the studio providing guidance. The funk squared bass makes for a shit cool track and is once again filled with that special essence Bejar provides with his cynical take on our reality.
Bejar is never far from his superhuman cynicism but with “University Hill” and “The Man in Black’s Blue” he provides notes of warmth even as he examines the slipperiness of satisfaction and finding joy in the last place it would be expected. A feeling of revelry and yearning is sprinkled throughout the album but is especially evident on these two tracks. That feeling is what saves the album from becoming too overwrought and depressing; instead, that overall vibe makes each song evocative and memorable. The final track “Foolssong” wraps up the release beautifully. Sonically the interstellar vibe aptly supports this final rumination on the angst and ennui of our lives. He identifies that at times we are too close to our selves and at times we are not paying enough attention. This is captured perfectly by the lyric, “It ain’t easy having a baby like you, it ain’t easy being a baby like me.” The song winds down like our lives as we fade out of existence with the inspired finale much like the signoff on Radiohead’s “Kid A”, an interstellar burst into eternity.
“Have We Met” is an impressive recording from a performer who has been creating brilliance for some time now. Throughout the record, Bejar provides enthralling sonics accompanied by gut-punching one-liners. I have always enjoyed his insightful sarcasm that does not originate from meanness but instead works to get in your head and make you rethink your take on reality. “Have We Met” displays Dan Bejar at the peak of his powers doing what he does best and making me anticipate what he will next reveal.