By Troy Hasselman, February 12 2020 —
A brief, incomplete list of things referenced in the lyrics of Destroyer’s Have We Met — the University of Alabama football team, Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” the Boston Strangler, Delta blues singer Charley Patton, Edgar Allen Poe, the Grand Ole Opry and childhood nursery rhymes. All of these unrelated pieces of history and Americana come filtered through frontman Dan Bejar’s wry wit and bottomless creativity on the long-running Vancouver-based songwriting project.
On Destroyer’s 12th album, Bejar remains as fiercely consistent as ever while moving his music further into the territory that he charted out for the band beginning with their 2011 release Kaputt. Have We Met is built on a bed of the same type of lush, soft-rock indebted synthesizers that Kaputt used so effectively but with a darker tone and more room for experimentation, making for one of the project’s most thrilling releases yet.
The album opens with the slow burning new-wave of “Crimson Tide” which has Bejar revising himself throughout the opening verse before allowing the reverb-drenched drums to hit in the song’s soaring chorus. Bejar has described his lyric writing process as trying to write the ugliest thing he possibly can and communicate it in a way that makes it beautiful. This logic falls to the music of the album as well with effects like a slap bass on “Cue Synthesizer” that sounds straight out of the theme of an ‘80s cop show and would be unlistenable in less skilled hands than Bejar’s.
British DJ John Peel summed up the appeal of his favorite band, The Fall by saying “They’re always different, always the same.” That’s precisely what has kept Destroyer continually engaging since the release of their debut in 1996. They’ve gone from sophisti-pop, to R&B, to glam rock, to coffee shop folk and back again through their long career and still have the wherewithal to keep their audience guessing as to where they’ll go next after all this time.