Friday, 9 May 2014

Favourite albums: STREETHAWK: A SEDUCTION (2001) by Destroyer

To quote a film you will never get tired of quoting: ‘Hair are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos and transmit them directly into the brain’. Well, if there is any truth to Danny’s words, that’s certainly one way to describe where Dan Bejar’s songwriting style is coming from.

Destroyer is in fact a very misleading name for a band that has nothing to do with Slayer, Slasher, Slitter and Slaughter and all those other metal acts that may or may not exist. Destroyer is about as fitting as Swans. Which, I guess, is where part of the charm lies.

Contrary to what some people might tell you, Destroyer is not a side-project of a member of a Canadian supergroup. That’s a ridiculous notion. Dan Bejar may contribute three or four songs to each New Pornographers album, but that is more of a high-profile distraction than a full-time job. Destroyer’s first album was released in 1996, four years before Mass Romantic. It wasn’t a very good album, mind you, but it was a start.

LP’s like City Of Daughters have their limited appeal, but they are so disheveled and sketchy that you will need infinitely more than a cursory interest. You will need dedication and total immersion into the freewheeling way Dan Bejar treats his melodies, lyrics, arrangements. 2000’s Thief was tighter, more focused, but he was still fooling around in places. Streethawk: A Seduction, in its turn, is the man’s absolute peak, and to this day I consider it a flawless triumph of free artistic expression. Everything works. Streethawk is a vast Impressionist canvas, deeply musical, conceived in the cynical-romantic age of modern pop culture.

But first you will have to get it. You will have to get “The Bad Arts”, “English Music”, “Helena” and all the rest of it. Pianos, acoustic guitars, distorted rhythms, tunes eating into each other like charming puppies gone mad. Streethawk is the tightest and most articulate that stream of consciousness can get, and yet how do you explain the mouth-watering “another west coast morning” section of “The Very Modern Dance”? And what’s with the immortal Clash line thrown into “The Sublimation Hour”? And the profound lyrical understatement of “Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Sea Of Tears)?”.. I don’t care if these are not melodies in the conventional sense of the word, but do believe me: if you get it, if you eventually come round to it, ‘at the temporary age’ of 24 or even beyond that, you have to be a very special person indeed.  

It must be hip to believe Dan Bejar is the best songwriter in The New Pornographers. It’s like saying George Harrison wrote all the best Beatles’ songs. Cute idea, but take out a sheet of paper and write down your favourites. No, Bejar’s songs don’t beat A.C. Nemwan’s best. But what you can’t deny is that Streethawk: A Seduction is the best album released by a member of a Canadian supergroup.

Streethawk tempts the huntress:
“Let the girls go insane!”
As we lay down our weapons and sure enough
We are slain by that stuff.

We are, aren’t we?..

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