Review: Destroyer - Poison Season
Tom Cushing | On 15, Sep 2015
With Poison Season, Destroyer have channeled the melancholy of mid 50â€™s Sinatra and the swagger of early 70â€™s Bowie into an albumÂ that somehow sounds both original and cohesive.
Eleven albums in most bands are running on empty, forced to use their past glory for kindling to keep the creative fire going. With their eleventh album, Destroyer have released one of the grandest artistic statements of their career.
The bookending title track Times Square, Poison Season I is squarely inÂ the Sinatra mode, introducing a sumptuous string section that weaves through the entire album, underscoring its woozy romanticism.Â â€œJesus is beside himself/Jacobâ€™s in a state of decimation,â€ frontmanÂ Dan Bejar sings earnestly on the opener, and not for the last time. The song is revisited not just inÂ the complimentary closer (Times Square, Poison Season II) but in the middle of the album as a straight ahead 70â€™s rocker.
The different versions allow Bejar to place different emphasis on his characteristically evocative but enigmatic lyrics. The words remain the same, but he lends them different stresses, allowing different meanings to emerge. When he sings â€œYou could fall in love with Time Square,â€ it could be an invitation or a warning.
Itâ€™s an interesting choice given that this must surely be the shortest lyric sheet in Destroyer history. Bejar is no longer stuffing his songs with novella-length lyrics that act as a challenging counterpoint to the music. Instead heâ€™s letting his words breathe, using his voice as delicately and deliberately as every other instrument on the album. Which isnâ€™t to say it gets lost, because Bejar has never sounded better. Long evolved past his Dylan-esque rasp, in songs like Girl In a Sling heâ€™s singing with the precise diction of a big band singer without sacrificing any of his unique phrasing.
Perhaps the closest relation to this era of Destroyer is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Itâ€™s hard to think of another group that can so adeptly switch from torch song to saxophone lead street rock to boogie rhythms all while sounding like the same band. Midnight Meet the Rain opens with brass stabs that would make Isaac Hayes proud, before moving into a driving power chord progression that sounds like The Band at their most exhilarating. Archer on the Beach meanwhile grooves along on a sultry bass line accentuated byÂ dramatic horns that wouldnâ€™t be out of place in a classic film noir.Â
Listeners who discovered Destroyer via 2011â€™s surprise hit Kaputt might be surprised to find how fully theyâ€™ve divested themselves of that recordâ€™s synth driven sheen. But they can rest a little easier knowing that surprise is the natural state of a Destroyer fan. Every album isÂ a dramatic shift from the last, yet they all sound decidedly like Destroyer. Poison Season cashes in on its predecessor’s success, luring new listenersÂ into a darkly romantic and wholly unique record. Or as Bejar puts it in Forces From Above, â€œI got paid then I wrote a song/I got paid and then I rode a song/Into the heavensâ€.