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“DD Review: Destroyer – LABYRINTHITIS.”

Score: 3/10

LABYRINTHITIS certainly wakes on a pretty daze, I’ve gotta admit. The first track is this seven-minute, watery, translucent groove that seems just singularly tranquil and sublime, “It’s in Your Heart Now,” toting with it a multiplicity of synthesizer that gives the song a certain texture and musical depth. 

The problems start to arrive, however, with the vocals, right away on this track. This faux-melancholy poker-faced-sage shtick of Dan Bejar’s is just getting incredibly stale, at this point. Even on projects as recent as ken (2017), Bejar had the knack for coming across pained and damaged, and what’s more, inspired, enough to actually sell his bag of tricks as legitimate art rock. 

The cliches start coming in by the barrel, though, even early on on LABYRINTHITIS. Check the cringe-worthy scrap of warmed-over 2003 New Pornographers [1] wisdom in “June”: “Fancy language dies and everyone’s happy to see it go”. This admission is really ironic considering Bejar himself, all over this album, is full of pedantic little linguistically-delivered bits of attempts at the sagacious, pointless declarations given in this bizarre fake British accent as if he’s making fun of somebody who’s making fun of somebody who’s making fun of somebody who’s making a rock album… or something like that. 

Right away, LABYRINTHITIS struck me as a solo album. I mean, there’s zero “jamming”… there’s zero instrumental virtuosity, to contrast it sharply to Detroit’s great The Lucid Furs. The drums sound programmed (much to my surprise Wikipedia did indeed list a drummer), there’s not so much as one single guitar solo, so much as I heard, at least one that isn’t drowned in overproduced, technical shmear. And the dispositions of these songs just seem to jaunt identically to the older Bejar projects, like KFC clones. Especially, this sameness to the old stuff comes across as unsavory seeing as this particular music on LABYRINTHITIS was recorded after the shutdown, a predicament that, for any artist (Blitzen Trapper), should have naturally spawned a creative metamorphosis so as to yield a musical product afterward sharply contrasting. Bejar reminds me of an aging relic at this point, hanging around at indie festivals looking for cute, 26-year-old redheads in horn-rimmed glasses. The really sad part is, it sounds like it’s working. “All My Pretty Dresses” bangs in with a tired, plain chord progression and complete absence of phrasing unorthodoxies or production range, and it’s clear that Bejar’s bag of tricks must have sprung a hole in it somewhere. I suppose, at least, anyway, this album does successfully smack of ambition, in a bona fide sense. 

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[1] The New Pornographers are a Canadian supergroup to which Bejar belonged and contributed two or three songs per album in the 2000s.

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