HEY! Get updates to this and the CD and 7" blogs via Twitter: @VinylUnderbite

24 June 2012

Destroyer - 'This Night' (Scratch)

Once again, a great Destroyer album has somewhat forgettable artwork, and lists the track titles right on the front cover. But this is a step forward for sure - a leap to a major indie label (and his home ever since, on Merge, though this LP is actually on Canadian label Scratch) and a leap towards larger production and more expansive songwriting. At two LPs, This Night is just a slight bit too long, but contains some of Dan Bejar's most magnificent performances. One way to read This Night is that Bejar feared this would be his only chance so he tried to make a statement - a great, sprawling double-LP masterpiece-of-intention. Right from the beginning we can hear it - the long, spacious title track seems to pull back the neurotic intensity heard on the last few records in favour of just letting it breathe, man. The production has tons of echo, reverb around his voice, and the dry, scratchy tinniness is nowhere to be found. The electric guitars rage, the keyboards are more atmospheric than lead-based, and Bejar sounds confident throughout. I believe 'Crystal Country' is made great by it's sinewy guitar licks, taking it in a surprising Crazy Horse direction while still giving space to his familiar cadences. 'The Chosen Few' is a frantic, Spanish-influenced acoustic number that's in my Destroyer top 5 -- in fact, I remember when I got my current speakers, I guess 10 years ago, this was on the turntable and 'The Chosen Few' was the first track I listened to through them.  The lyric associations are less rooted in indie culture as on Streethawk, though 'Trembling Peacock' is as autobiographical as we'll ever get from Bejar (more-so than 'Self Portrait with Thing'), and it's touching (and with the same dramatic rushes found on Thief). Everything feels much more sketch-like than we've heard before; the songs have a lazy swing sometimes, and the lyrics feel almost improvised. 'Hey, Snow White' is barely a song compared to the precision shown before, and I find that to be the best and worst thing about This Night. It's great that this record stands out against his others, and I've always liked to view albums as total concepts, moods to stand alone. I don't find myself pulling it out very often, but then again, it's a somewhat demanding listen; the songs are all long and seem to never quite know when to finish. The biggest exception is the closing cut, 'The Night Moves', which feels like a holdover from the Streethawk era with it's direct 4/4 rhythm and wordless chorus, a throwback to the 'You've got the spirit' code of 'The Bad Arts'. Elsewhere, there's goodness everywhere. 'Here Comes the Night' feels written to be a hit, and it's catchy, though never one of the great Destroyer songs for me. Despite the dark artwork and nocturnal lyrics throughout (three songs with 'night' in the title, versis one with 'white' and one with 'light'), I associate this album more with warm summer days, maybe due to the tube-based warmth of the production. After this, Bejar starts to really experiment - Your Blues and Kaputt are total departures, and Trouble in Dreams and overly wordy mess; only Rubies from the later record has the same magic as this one, a 'return to form' for sure, though that's not to say I don't love parts of all of 'em.

No comments:

Post a Comment