Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Destroyer @ The Music Hall of Williamsburg

I really have to give it to Dan Bejar. With his wrinkly button-down shirt, stiff Levi’s, and Rockport walking shoes and a propensity for turning his back to the audience while slumped over his guitar, he’s the mopiest stage presence this side of Stephen Merritt. Most of his songs are lyrically indecipherable, and he’s singularly untalented as a vocalist. And I think he’s the best thing going in indie rock right now.

Now before you think I’m going into some diatribe on the state of indie rock, let me be more clear – I saw Destroyer for the first time last week at the Music Hall of Williamsburg (I still have a hard time saying that), after ingesting their last 4 albums over the course of the last year. Bejar was the last of the New Pornographers for me to listen to his solo work – I always thought his 3 songs per album were good but his damn voice was the worst part of the whole NP collective.

The beauty of it is this – he somehow makes it work, perfectly, and mostly through constructing melodies that could only belong to him, then sending them on their way through songs that sometimes meander, sometimes pound, sometimes skip along, but more often than not bring you to places you could only hear through Bejar’s filter. And he’s not afraid to adjust the lens – Destroyer played songs I’d grown fairly used to over the last year like “Crystal Country” and “Rubies,” stretching out the former and tightening the latter (which I always thought ran about 4 minutes long on the album anyway), keeping only the good parts.

And lyrically, I’ll repeat the most oft-used disclaimer because of the truth behind it, one I’ve heard Bejar himself give in an interview – his writing will never be reviewed the New York Times Review of Books. But the phrasing more often than not interplays with the songs so well that you can’t help singing gleefully along to lines like “Endangered Ape, a couple years in Solitary never really hurt anyone/Distinguished colleagues dig music writers' bribes - I apologize.” After a year or so of listening and one Destroyer show under my belt, I still have no idea what he’s trying to say. But I’m all ears.

On a side note, this was the first time I’ve been to the Music Hall of Williamsburg since the conversion from the old Northsix – a couple impressions:
  • It’s definitely more, well, regulated than Northsix. We had a hard time even getting in, as the barcode on our tickets hadn’t yet activated, and the security guys wouldn’t let anyone in if their barcodes didn’t scan. Once in, my girlfriend was delighted to be randomly carded while we watched the show from the balcony with beers in our hands. From our perch we noticed at least one hipster shoving match quickly and quietly diverted by 3 well-dressed black men who then blended back into the masses.
  • There was also some noticeable homogenization at work – the upstairs balcony and bar looked exactly like the balcony at the Bowery Ballroom, and the downstairs lounge was identical to the one at Southpaw. The Bowery Presents owns and manages all three.

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