Sunday, February 26, 2006

Destroyer's Rubies

This album has got its hooks into me and hard.

The music snob in me hates to have to admit this in a public forum, but it occurs to me that I, mostly, listen to music for comfort, which is as much a function of where I listen to music as why. (Who wants to be additionally challenged on the El in the morning? Not me. This is probably why I resent the level of commitment the Fiery Furnaces are asking of me and why I remain basically content to ignore them.) Dan Bejar's voice is not comfortable. But, where it jars on a New Pornos album, because most of the rest of the thing can be listened to for comfort (c'mon, those of you who have a copy of my best of '05 liner notes have read all my bullshit about climaxing "hey las" and whatnot--what is that other than feel-good comfort in the guise of some kind of passive catharsis?), it is essential to the experience of listening to Destroyer's Rubies, inextricable from it, no matter what kind of contortions I have to do to be able to deal with it. Destroyer's Rubies cannot be listened to comfortably, no matter how much the music perfectly resembles the kind of thing I usually go in for--which is exactly what has seduced me right into it. But, that voice. It's like I'm listening to two albums while I'm listening to Destroyer's Rubies. Or maybe even three. I'm letting the music groove and bubble under me, while I'm holding Bejar's voice at arm's length in front of me like a frying pan full of sparking, boiling oil pricking at my skin and I'm holding the lyrics like a pail full of milk, sloshing, overflowing, propped against my right hip bone. Listening to this album is an event. I feel part of an artistic moment listening to it.

All the trainspotting discussions of intertextuality I've encountered on the Interslice (which are themselves becoming more and more twistily and twistedly self-referential; witness the 'Glow's convention of capping BEJAR and the endless linking to Zoilus, which of course I am flagrantly guilty of as well [but, cheers to this review for referring to Bejar as "the New Pornographers' elusive beardo"]) bore me more than a little. Yeah, it's because I've pretty much shrugged off my former English major tendencies and have come to grips with the fact that my temperament is not at all suited to that kind of analysis, but it's also probably because I'm a Destroyer neophyte and wouldn't get any of the references to his previous albums anyway. It rankles because I don't want my experience of this album as a self-contained object taken away from me. Obviously, of course, duh, I know no album is ever a self-contained object, but you dig where I'm coming from. I don't want to feel like I'm being implicitly told that the relationship I'm beginning to forge with this album is somehow compromised because I don't have the requisite mental hyperlinks to the Destroyer back catalog. That pesky snob in me got a little sad when I read that Carl Wilson wrote of the album back in December, "...All of which helps make the album 'accessible' to those who don't necessarily have the preoccupations shared by Dan and, I suspect, many core Destroyer fans up till now. But the real reason this album is going to be embraced by many, many people outside that inner circle is that it's so luxuriantly musical." Oh my poor little inner snob! I've just been called out onto the mat: I'm late to the party, and, in the end, I'm only there for the music. Recipe for l-a-m-e. But, fuck it. What am I gonna do about it? This is obviously the kind of treatment Bejar courts with his whole approach, and if I can't roll with it, I'm just going to have to grab at what I can. Oh, but even for a neophyte, there's so much to grab! This is a delicious, irresistible album and it will not be denied. Approach at your own risk, but for heaven's sake, I have to keep reminding myself, approach with complete abandon.

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