Destroyer’s Dan Bejar has achieved an entirely new level of notoriety over the past few years, thanks almost exclusively to his well-documented but exaggerated involvement with overrated Canadian power-pop sensations the New Pornographers. Led by A.C. Newman, and featuring contributions from Neko Case, the band plays fairly straightforward, occasionally enjoyable pop music that your parents would probably like. You’ve got to wonder, though, what the band’s rabid fans are thinking after having gone through the trouble to check out Bejar in his natural setting with his own full-time outfit. I’m no mind reader, but it’s probably something like, “OMG! What is this crazy man talking about, and why won’t he stop barking at me? And wait, why are all these songs so long?
Those people are, of course, missing out. Bejar’s been making fantastically weird, extraordinary music for a decade now, and he seems only to be getting better. His new record, Destroyer’s Rubies is his most difficult batch of songs to date, but also his most cohesive and inviting.
The album opens with ‘Rubies’, a ten-minute epic that pulls off the unenviable task of welcoming you to Bejar’s strange world, and serves as a perfect teaser for the entire record, encompassing hints of a dozen genres and theatrical shifts in tone. The record goes on, with the band incorporating everything from fuzzy 60s guitar solos and soaring freakouts to relaxing, loose jams that are more reminiscent of Rolling Thunder-era Dylan than anything typically described as “jammy.” Bejar’s vocals also recall mid-70s Dylan, as he delivers his challenging lyrics in the abrupt, biting manner that his detractors have traditionally cited as his biggest failing. I’m pretty sure those are the same people who say Tom Waits’ voice is just too raspy, though, so obviously you should pay them no mind. Bejar is a talent like we haven’t seen in years, willing to go beyond the things he’s comfortable with, at the same time forcing us to do the same.