Destroyer – ‘Poison Season’

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Dan Bejar dodges pigeonholing on a record that flip-flops between clashing styles

Destroyer’s Dan Bejar revisits the same song on three separate occasions during 10th album ‘Poison Season’ – his first since 2011’s sax-filled ‘Kaputt’ received rave reviews and turned the Vancouver-based musician into an unlikely star. Opener ‘Times Square, Poison Season I’ is a wry dig at record industry fakery, as Bejar sniffs at the sight of “[i]Artists and repertoire/Hand in hand[/i]” over woozy strings. Final track ‘Times Square, Poison Season II’ takes the same conceit but turns it jolly courtesy of stamp-along piano that could have been lifted from the knees-up finale of a Broadway musical. And sandwiched somewhere between those two bookends is the radio-friendly ‘70s rock of ‘Times Square’. “[i]Judy’s beside herself/Jack’s in a state of desolation[/i]”, sings Bejar in every one, but it never sounds the same: it’s once, twice, three times a different song.

For some sceptics, it’ll seem a wilfully obstinate trick. This, after all, is the same publicity-shy man who’s fond of publicly wishing he could make the world forget about ‘Kaputt’, which was nominated for Canada’s equivalent of the Mercury Prize, and the War On Drugs-style breakthrough it caused. Littering the follow-up with three variations on the same song could certainly shake off newcomers. But ‘Poison Season’ is also a record that’s gloriously nonsensical: unlike ‘Kaputt’, which was firmly rooted in ’80s soft rock, it manically flip-flops between jarring sounds and clashing styles. One minute, Bejar’s channeling ‘Born To Run’-era Springsteen with barreling riffs and blasting saxophones on the bright, breezy ‘Dream Lover’, and the next he’s swallowed up by the strange, stabbing strings and off-kilter orchestral trills of ‘Hell’.

The violent swings in sound are mirrored in Bejar’s lyrics, too. It’s fitting that an album that often feels like a determined attempt to dodge any pigeonholing is populated by characters determined to swim against the tide, from the doomed lovers desperate for “[i]the right to be free[/i]” on ‘Forces From Above’ to the disillusioned New York girl who “[i]despises the direction this city’s been going in[/i]” on sleepy ballad ‘The River’. “[i]You make a plea for me to come to my senses[/i]”, he sings on the showy, brassy camp of ‘Midnight Meet The Rain’, as if eagerly anticipating the naysayers. They should keep quiet: Bejar’s dismantled the old Destroyer sound, but he’s built something wonderfully disorientating in its stead.

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Release date: 28 Aug, 2015