Review: Destroyer’s ‘ken’ good for listening between lines
Destroyer, “ken” (Merge Records)
Prolific Dan Bejar’s restless musical journey reaches a new stage with “ken,” which travels the similar-yet-different path to its most recent predecessors, “Kaputt” from 2011 and 2015′s “Poison Season.”
Three albums this decade may not seem very productive, but Bejar records and collaborates with several lineups — fellow Vancouverites The New Pornographers being the most renowned — and his output totals some 30 albums and EPs in 20-plus years. This is his twelfth with Destroyer.
“ken” takes its name from the original title of Suede’s epic 1994 ballad “The Wild Ones.” Bejar says his aim was to somehow capture what that song made him feel, “when music first really came to me like a sickness,” even if there’s no direct relation to the British group.
Many of the sounds on “ken” seem rooted a decade further back from the Suede track, with pulsing synths and drum machines and the songs carrying a Waterboys-like drama dressed up in The Cure’s mood swings. Drummer-producer Josh Wells excels.
Lyrically, opener “Sky’s Grey” sets the tone for the whole album — “Sky’s grey/Call for rain/Everyday/You cancel parade.” It’s a bit of a downer about “dear young revolutionary capitalists,” but chillingly effective.
From there, Bejar makes observation on vacuous existences (“A pose is always empty”), the ambivalence of material comforts (“I can’t pay for this/All I’ve got is money”) and presents a kind of handbook for living surrounded by anxiety (“Good things come to those who wait forever.”)
Bejar may also be singing about something completely different. Forming your own interpretations as the songs affect you in their unique way is a great approach for any Destroyer album, and “ken” is particularly fertile ground for listening between the lines.