“Poison Season” Destroyer


Poison Season Album Review

Merge/Dead Oceans

Released August 28, 2015

Genre: Indie Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Baroque Rock/Pop, Spoken Word, Jazz, Mellow Rock Tunes, Lou Reed-core

I have always marveled at films of the black-and-white variety; how something so bleak and visually bare could bring about so much simply by content. It’s a great feat sure, but is also really simple in execution merely  as it boils everything down to the simplest of elements, words and characters. In Martin Scorcese’s  classic 1980 sports drama Raging Bull, boxer Jake LaMotta is the titular nihilist, a man caught up in the dreams of success and glory that he selfishly abandons all respect for the important people in his life. What made this film so compelling, aside from Robert DeNiro’s acting, is the lack-of-color; it does so much more than you think. For LaMotta, you don’t care about the scars, the blood, the bruises – they’re all grey or black and rarely matter when you think about it. You begin to see right through LaMotta’s personality and discover who he truly is.

I’m not sure Dan Bejar had the same idea with Poison Season, but he does a great job with this tenth studio release from his band Destroyer. Poison Season’s cover is in black and white and, consequentially, the entire album can evoke a drab feel to it. However, Bejar’s poetic lyricism and fusion of classical elements with some art rock finesse make up for an album that relies heavily on the words, but blooms into something bigger, and beautiful.

Destroyer’s music is usually rich in instrumentation, giving way to a beautiful tapestry of influences such as jazz, rock, and pop. The band’s last effort, 2011’s Kaputt found the band experimenting with disco, new wave, and R&B – delivering a sound that was as smooth as honey and as rich and evocative as a hopeless romantic. This direction was welcomed break from the band’s usual glam rock/folk tendencies and found the group able to deal with genres so foreign yet so fully realized. On Poison Season the band doesn’t necessarily revisit the bright and shiny synths and atmosphere of Kaputt, they do however use horns again on the excellent “Times Square”. “Hell” welcomes in some strings as this piano led ballad finds Bejar’s distinct vocal tonage carry a rompy tune reminiscent of Billy Joel and New Morning- era Bob Dylan.

Fretless bass was a big element on Kaputt, which gave the album’s instrumentation a free wheeling and flexible aura, and it seems that some of that has carried on to Poison Season, most notably on “Archer On The Beach.” The funky bass on “Midnight Meet the Rain”  serves a purpose to shake things up on this slow and meditative album. While the music vacillates between introspective ballads and insightful rock tunes, the album does well by fleshing out Bejar’s intellectual quips and commentary on, practically everything.

For example, on the album centerpiece “Times Square” Bejar’s sings “You can follow a rose wherever it grows / Yeah, you can fall in love with Times Square” which represents the contrast between nature and technology, or rural vs. urban life. This disparaging insight can be seen as cynical from a brilliant curmudgeon, and Bejar proves that this his lyrics at their bleakest. Even on the upbeat and enjoyably noisy “Dream Lover”, Bejar mutters (literally, mutters) “Oh shit here comes the sun” right as horns blare amongst the noisy guitars. It’s a direct opposite to the serene and emotional aspects of Kaputt and goes to show how Bejar has changed since then.

So while Poison Season is anything but groundbreaking for the band, it’s still a noteworthy release in their discography. You can blame the anticipation on Kaputt and depending on who you are, your expectations were either met or not. To me, Destroyer find themselves going through the normal emotions that make us human: love, heartache, introspection, cynicism – everything that could possibly strike an artist or not. It’s not revelatory or life-changing, but the mere event of seeing anyone go through these emotions, especially one of indie rock’s greatest poets, is still  thought provoking and interesting to witness.

If there’s anything wrong about this album, I’d have to give it to the lack of memorable tracks. That isn’t to discredit Destroyer’s penchant for writing tasteful rock tunes while providing some worthwhile insight of the world around us. There’s no denying the risk of the noisy batter of drums on “Sun In The Sky” layered over the horns and Bejar’s muttering of “I’m so much deeper than the damage”; it goes to show how fully-realized Destroyer’s work can truly be.  The fact of the matter is that Poison Season is an album that demands your attention, and after analyzing Bejar’s lines of prose, you’ll begin to see what exactly he’s trying to say. And if you’ve been listening to them for this long, you’ll know what he has to say has merit – artistic and realistic.

FAV TRACKS: Times Square Poison Season I, Dream Lover, Forces From Above,Times Square, Archer On The Beach, Bangkok, Sun In The Sky

LEAST FAV TRACK: Solace’s Bride

Score: (7.0/10)

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