Destroyer “Kaputt”

The hippest car my parents ever owned was a cherry red Chevrolet Chevette.  They bought it used sometime in the middle part of the eighties.  It was a tiny two door that befit our small family.  This was before the silver Mercury Sable station wagon with the “wayback” seat, the backwards facing, best seat ever in a car.  In the Mercury I would pretend that I was the gunner in a Snowspeeder from The Empire Strikes Back.  I remember listening to coverage of the first Iraq war while in the Mercury. 

I was young when they owned the Chevette so the memories are non-specific.   The remembrance of that car is moods and scenes of driving down empty roads surrounded by cranberry bogs in Southeastern Massachusetts.  There was music, I remember that.  The Chevette didn’t have a tape deck, so the radio that defined music of that car.  The choice of station was not reflective of my parents’ taste in music, it was background noise.  I was a kid and I wasn’t paying attention and my “memory” of the music in the eighties is informed more by I Love The Eighties, late night infomercials, and John Hughes movies than by specific memories of certain records.  Still, there are rhythms, beats, choruses, styles that trigger visions of sitting in the backseat of that two-door, cherry-red Chevette.

Destroyer’s new album, Kaputt, captures everything that was everyday in pop music in the late seventies to the mid eighties: the alto sax, the synth, the bass, the duets.  Daniel Bejar even pulls out a little Starship, borrowing “We built this city…(not on Rock n’ Roll, but in ruin)” at one point.  The thing is it is all completely earnest.  Kaputt isn’t steeped in irony.  It feels like a paean to an era that music that is often derided or used as an excuse were neon and hairspray and get drunk at 80’s parties.

It’s a deceptively mellow record, though that’s as much a product of Bejar’s voice as it is the music.  There is a languid poetry to Kaputt. That and a few soft rock jazz solos put you in New York City with a loosened skinny tie. Chinatown recalls the Polanski film.  The chorus repeats “You can’t walk away, I can’t walk away…”  and it’s easy to imagine that you can hear “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown.” as the song fade out.  Blue Eyes calls out to the eighties, “Your first love’s New Order…”, “I sent a message in a bottle…”  Suicide Demo For Kara Walls is an eight minute keyboard and sax driven contemplation on relationships and Poor In Love is a sweet story of being snapped out of the haze of unrequited love. Song For America is sinister, “Jessica’s gone to vacation on the dark side of town forever…who knew?”  The lonely guitar throughout and the dueling saxophones building tension for the last-minute of the song, only to be released by the track ending.  It’s only Bay of Pigs that feels a bit more like it was written after neon windbreakers went out of style.  It’s a great dance number to end the record and takes it’s time at more than ten minutes.

Kaputt feels like life in crowded city and the compromises that we make to make it in love and life.  It’s a familiar record, it feels like you know this album the first time you hear it.  My girlfriend, someone who doesn’t pay attention to music at all, swore she had heard this record before (she had not).  It’s that familiarity that makes the record work so well.  The fact that Destroyer seems to mean it by not making a cheesy 80’s tribute is the icing on the cake.

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Listen: Here | Title: Kaputt | Label, year: Merge Records, 2011 |Format: CD, mp3, Vinyl | Length: 9 songs | Appropriate style of dress while listening: Anything circa 1976-1985. | Which 80’s movie soundtrack could it replace: St. Elmo’s Fire | Why St. Elmo’s Fire?: Cocaine, love, drama, and a main character, Billy Hicks (Rob Lowe) plays a sax, does blow, and gets into fights. In fact this album might be about Billy Hicks | Early entry into the best of the year contest?: Yes | Representative lyric(s): “Wasting your days, chasing some girls, alright, chasing cocaine through the backrooms of the world all night…Sounds, Smash Hits, Melody Maker, NME, All sound like a dream to me. “

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