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Destroyer - Labyrinthitis (Album Review)

Thursday, 31 March 2022 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Nicolas Bragg

Destroyer’s 13th studio album comes at you like a hot mess. It’s a chaotic blend of ideas, tropes and sounds welded together by the ever-melodious warblings of songwriter Dan Bejar.

Sonically oscillating between electro-funk, sludge disco and art-rock, the first half of ‘Labyrinthitis’ careens around like a shopping trolley with a gammy wheel, threatening to clatter into watermelons, pyramids of cans and bemused geriatrics on mobility scooters.

And when it works, it’s a hell of a ride. One of its strongest elements is the fun and satire of the lyrics. On Eat the Wine, Drink the Bread Bejar operates at a Neil-Tennant-Bernard Sumner performance interface, bringing his own particular brand of snarky self doubt to the mix. 

“I don't know where I'm going” he claims, “It's insane in here, it's a lunacy out there / And everything you just said was better left unsaid.”

Similarly enjoyable is June, a track that opens with a dual bass motif (one fretted / one fretless) that then finds a cool groove to chock out alongside pleasing video game twinkles and funk guitars. 

Once again, Bejar’s performance weds the piece together, providing thin, diaphanous but intellectual lyricism to the piece, especially in its spoken word outro: "Oh Aggie, your beating heart was a carriage made of gold / How the arithmetic of this guitar melts your heart is beyond me.”

If only the whole album were as wonderful as that track. But the same forces of spontaneity and chaos fall flat on their faces elsewhere. Sometimes songs don’t work because they feel impenetrable, as on the title track and the overwrought Suffer, and sometimes songs have a strange sort of blandness, as with All My Pretty Dresses and The States. 

Destroyer have always had a arty-but-bland streak in their work, but it's just a streak, unlike fellow Canadian art-poppers Caribou, where arty-but-bland is all they do. All of which feels odd, given the wild ride promised at the start of the album. 

But maybe it was always meant to be this way. ‘Labyrinthitis’ is far from Destroyer’s best work, but it does demonstrate a group who continue to draw from a deep well of creativity and curiosity, despite the misfires. Long may it continue.

Destroyer Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue October 11 2022 - DUBLIN Button Factory
Wed October 12 2022 - GLASGOW Drygate
Thu October 13 2022 - LEEDS Brudenell Social Club
Fri October 14 2022 - LONDON EartH (Hall)

Compare & Buy Destroyer Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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