REVIEW: Destroyer: This Night
Destroyer: This Night [Merge, 2002] (mp3s)
Three words? tip o'the tongue
This is an old cd now. It's been almost a year since Sean gave it to me to review. The night that I got the cd I listened to it, judged it and conceived of an outline for the review. The outline itself was ambitious and involved a 300 word footnote on the possibility of imminent and dreaded dental surgery.1
In the beginning of the review I was trying to write about why I don't like Destroyer's sophomore album, Thief. More specifically, I was attempting to criticize Jason Zumpano's piano-playing on that album. However, it was here that I ran into my first major problem. I was desperately trying to include in my criticism the words 'transgress,' 'Truffault's,' and 'imperative,' but couldn't quite get the ordering right or my meaning clear enough. This was enough to discourage me for a while. I took a week's break in order to relax.
When I came back to the review I encountered a further problem: my opinion of the record was complicated and muddled. Basically, I saw it - in the context of Destroyer's output - as something akin to Thief; a step down from its predecessor, but hopefully a stylistic step towards something even better.2 But I also thought that This Night was much stronger than Thief, and was valuable independently of Destroyer's other albums.
It has a much looser sound and the types of arrangements featured - fallings-apart and comings-back-together - have the potential to reveal the beauty of Bejar's surprising turns of melodic and lyrical phrase in yet unexplored ways.
I ran into Sean Michaels some four months after he first gave me the cd to review and he was very nice about my not having kept my word, while at the same time indicating that he would like the review as soon as possible. "I was planning on writing it the day I got it, but then I figured Jordan would do a much better job."
Well, this only added pressure to the situation. The wait and the expectation together made me feel as though my review had to be some sort of Ulysses or Being and Time. At one point I had a seven page review (unfortunately inspired by the latter book) entitled "A Phenomenological History of Destroyer and the Very Subjective Story of My Year."
When summer arrived I got the opportunity to write an article for the Ottawa Citizen. I promised myself that I wouldn't send an article into the Citizen for publication before I sent Sean his review. I pitched story ideas ten-at-a-time every day for a week until finally I had an idea accepted that was so alien to my initial ideas that I didn't really understand it myself.
I was supposed to write an article about record shopping at garage sales. I probably went to 30 garage sales and couldn't find a record worth writing about. After switching the focus to books, things didn't get much better. The best I could find was a book from 1977 about eating out in Ottawa, Mr Jelly Roll (Alan Lomax's Jelly Roll Morton biography) and M. Bovary (which I'd never read). I decided to write an article comparing the three, and somehow tying in the experience of book shopping at garage sales. Though this idea probably seems quite obviously bad to you, it took me quite some time (and seven-hundred pages of reading) to come to that conclusion myself. The urgency to complete my Destroyer article disappeared; the summer was up and I hadn't written an article for the Citizen.
This was twice in a row I'd set out to do something and hadn't followed through on my word. A bad and hopefully uncharacteristic trend was beginning to emerge. And yet the knowledge of this seemed to only discourage me further. I needed to relax and so I took a break.
I ran into Sean at a show recently and he didn't mention the review3 and neither did I (there was no point in apologizing until I'd actually done something about it). He even lent me some cds.4
Feeling a bit more relaxed and with a little perspective on the album, I once again reevaluated my review.
I haven't listened to the album much this year. I still think it's good. I can recommend it to fans but not necessarily as an introduction to Destroyer's project.
1. I've so far managed to keep running. I'm starting to believe that they'll never catch me and I can live happily in pain forever.
2. Thief seemed to me a disappointing follow up to the beautiful, paired down City of Daughters, but Bejar's (Destroyer's front man) move away from the acoustic strum of the first album to the (I'm sure you've heard it elsewhere) Bowiesque glam of the second, allowed for Streethawk: A Seduction, the absolutely phenomenal third album.
3. With one notably subtle exception
4. Right now I'm listening to Neil Halstead's Seasons single that Sean lent me. It's quite nice.