A review of the ALBUM

Kaputt

by Destroyer

Central Question: Can you sing a pop song with half a sandwich in your mouth?
Themes alluded to or avoided on Kaputt, according to a Merge Records press release: Kaputt; Kara Walker; Chinatown; ’80s Miles Davis; ’90s Gil Evans; Last Tango in Paris; Nic Bragg; fretless bass; the hopelessness of the future of music; the pointlessness of writing songs for today; V-Drums; the superiority of poetry and plays; and what’s to become of film?; the Cocaine Addict; American communism; downtown; the LinnDrum; Avalon; the devastated mind of JC/DC; the backup vocals on certain Roy Ayers and Long John Baldry tours; Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence; Representative line: “A ransom note written on the night sky above reminds me what, in particular, about this wine I love.”

Dan Bejar named the ninth Destroyer album, Kaputt, after a novelistic World War II dispatch by Italian journalist Curzio Malaparte, even though he hadn’t read it. In a way, this is surprising, as fifteen years of Destroyer lyrics give you the sense that Bejar’s read just about everything; he even ends one song by repeating, four times, “I’ve thumbed through the books on your shelves.” (It feels like a boast. He doesn’t say which books.) In another way, though, it’s logical for him to fold his songs beneath an unfamiliar book. More room for his own stories.

That is, if stories can serve as any more accurate a descriptor than songs for Bejar’s primary unit of expression. His tracks are packed with lines that only sometimes add up to a larger narrative; more often, they flare like fireworks but reveal dead ends once they stop smoking. Here, it feels increasingly like we’re overhearing a private monologue. On “Blue Eyes,” he sings, “I write poetry for myself!” (On 2008’s Trouble in Dreams: “A woman by another name is not a woman / I’ll tell you what I mean by that. Maybe not in seconds flat, maybe not today.”) Elsewhere he repeats, somberly, “The problem with Destroyer is…” and never finishes the sentence.

The problem with Destroyer is, evidently, one Bejar will continue to wrestle with for as long as he writes songs. Kaputt is not his first step in the direction of renouncing the practice—the last few years have been rife with recordings Bejar made “after deciding never to record again,” such as the radio-play-like 2010 B-side “Grief Point,” on which he left musical duties to a collaborator and concentrated entirely on the words—but it’s the first unified statement in which we hear him working to come to terms with the idea that songwriting and serious writing are irreconcilable.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Brandon Stosuy

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