If one were looking to find a band sunk by the weight of all the worst indie-rock traits of the moment -- fey, affected vocals; orchestral filigree applied to mask melodic deficiencies; pointless complexity rubbing up against annoying faux-simplicity and wannabe Ivy League lit professor lyrical allusions -- it would be difficult to find a better candidate than Destroyer, the revolving-lineup art-rock showcase for Vancouver, Canada-based eccentric and songwriter Dan Bejar.
Although Bejar has released a staggering eight albums plus assorted other effluvia under the Destroyer name since the mid-’90s, he’s best known as a contributor of some of the finest songs on albums by the indie-rock supergroup the New Pornographers. There, his most self-indulgent and grating tendencies are mitigated by the big-band dynamic, if not checked by unofficial bandleader Carl Newman. But there are no similar filters in Destroyer, and we suffer for it.
Mellotrons chirp, EBowed guitars imitate sawing cellos, wispy backing vocals la-la-la and every time it seems as if Destroyer may rise to the moment and deliver an arty pop gem imitative of Brian Eno’s pop albums, the vibe is ruined by a self-conscious allusion to a lite-rock band like Air Supply, some over-the-top production gaffe, pretentious references to Bejar’s earlier work or our fearless leader popping back with an even more fake accent than his usual upper-crust Brit impersonation to croon a line such as, “You in white and me in gray go well tonight/So let’s linger here/This used to be my favorite palm tree/I was starving in that s--t-house, the world” from “My Favorite Year” (1993, if you’re curious), one of two especially wince-worthy prog-rock epics at the center of the disc.