Destroyer – Ken review

Secret Meeting score: 78

By Philip Moss

One of the great things about Instagram is that you can follow likeminded music fans and pick up on artists and records that you’ve either not heard of before, or have just passed you by. In this case, it’s both of the above because ken (released last year on the ever-reliable Dead Oceans imprint) is Destroyer’s (aka Dan Bejar) ninth solo album since starting the project in 1995.

Bejar, 45, is also a founding member of Canadian power-pop group, The New Pornographers, but it’s under the Destroyer moniker where he really comes into his own. ken, named after the original title for Suede’s 1994 magnum-opus, The Wild Ones, is a triumph. The kind of record that sounds great at night. The kind of record you could drive 100mph to down a deserted, midnight motorway. The kind of record you want to lock yourself away and listen to through the isolation of headphones.

Vocally evoking shades of Ezra Furman and Neil Tennant, Bejar is a wordy, clearly well read songwriter. ‘Come one, come all, dear young revolutionary capitalists,’ he satires through opener, Sky’s Grey‘I’m working on the new Oliver Twist,’ savagely pinpointing that times haven’t changed that much since Dickens was deriding the forlorn state of the world.

Opening over a sordid synth and a bass line that reeks of Peter Hook, Tinseltown Swimming in Blood juxtaposes the stereotypical, glittering image of Hollywood and the decadent lifestyle associated. Instead it exposes it for the controlling, superficial scrum of executives that those who chase it find it to be, with ‘dead flowers on the skyline’ and ‘a dream of your blue eyes,’ before a flurry of New Order-esque guitars – their sound lifted straight off Power, Corruption & Lies – see the song through to its melancholy finale. Likewise, A Light Travels Down The Catwalk is also synth heavy, as yet more cynical lyrics slaughter those who chase the vain world of the celebrity – ‘Strike an empty pose… on the boulevard of sinners.’ While Ivory Coast has shades of Tom Verlaine’s post-Television output with its gated drums and glittering, glossy guitars.

So, if you’ve been a fan of this record since its release in October, sorry that this review’s so late. But, if like me, ken and Destroyer have previously not made it through your filter, do yourself a favour. Get down to your local record shop and zone out in this extraordinary piece of work.