Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams

Both playful and furious at the same time; head battling heart, knowing the absurd futility of the state-governed world is not worth getting upset about.

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Released 18 Mar 2009 | Rough Trade | By Jon Parry | Rating: 3-5
Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams

The Canadian act's eighth album is an idiosyncratic mix of serious, emotive 80s indie rock and rollicking 'Hunky Dory'-era Bowie and Nick Cave-esque ballads drunk on the absurdity of relationships and the world. Singer-songwriter Daniel Bejar's delivery matches contrasts, alternately or simultaneously earnest and flippant to his unrequited love and their situation, and pitying and mocking his own persona.

The music is consistently good if not great (barring the resoundingly dull 'Introducing Angels'), so it is Bejar's handling of his personas which makes or breaks the success of the songs and, by turns, the album. On 'My Favorite Year' and 'Shooting Rockets...' he sings 'da da da' REM-esque middle sections in the former and the outro song title refrain in the latter - which undo the enigmatic ambiguity of his vocal delivery in the verses. Not so in 'Rivers' and 'Leopard Of Honor', in which Bejar successfully manages to maintain a thrilling ambivalence, through the emotional power of understatement.

On the straight 80s indie rock of 'Dark Leaves Form A Thread' and 'Libby's First Sunrise' he proves he can sing straight melodies with believable earnestness, but also remaining tantalising. As he sings "you've been fucking around... and this is what you get" in the latter song's first verse, for example, a sense of bitter vengeful triumph is palpable, yet by the time he gets to the third verse, you're thinking maybe he's sympathetic or regretful, but you still can't be sure if he's indifferent to human suffering, laughing in the face of it or deeply saddened by it. The album closes with the song's fade out line "the light holds a terrible secret" over interlocking, spiralling guitars, leaving a wonderfully troubled dream-like sense of mysterious beauty in its wake. Likewise as Bejar croons "I'm perfectly at home with this dread" in 'Dark Leaves Form A Thread', you wonder if he's fearful or contemptuous of the world of paranoia, whether he's masochistic or pessimistic, and how much is bad dream or true. The song would make a much better representative of the album than its only single so far, 'Foam Hands', which is lacking the ironic lyrics and delivery of the others.

'Blue Flower/Blue Flame' is a meditative acoustic opener which eases you gently into a troubled complex post-modern world where women are either blue flowers or blue flames, or both. The opening line sets a scene of symbolic imagery and I-centred drunk-like impressions. 'Plaza Trindad' is the rockiest and most overtly humorous and Bowie influenced track, and although it would probably work better live, is among the album's best, with Bejar singing as if drunk - perhaps on acute ironic self-awareness. The truly outstanding track however is 'The State', a hugely potent combination of Stones' raunch and Love's exhilirating panache. Bejar rises superbly to the superlative music, being both playful and furious at the same time; head battling heart, knowing perhaps the absurd futility of the state-governed world is not worth getting upset about. Yet he can't help feeling down to his bones that this world is a tragic play not a comic one: "The state exposes our hearts... There's a blue broken drunk playing dead, and that's good to know."