What if the Smiths had been our little secret -- not a worldwide phenomenon whose appeal crossed cultural barriers with breathless ease, but a closely guarded icon whose worshipers shared in the unique communion of the secret cause? We would feel the ugly satisfaction that comes from being in on a joke that nobody else gets, one supposes. But we'd also wonder why our numbers weren't greater, since -- well, how could anybody not like the Smiths?
Destroyer, a band whose sole permanent member is singer and songwriter Dan Bejar, poses this very question, since Bejar's best moments are every bit as good as Morrissey and Marr's, though general acclaim has thus far eluded him. As it will continue to elude him, I fear. Those were different times, as people are rightly fond of saying, and as Bejar will also say at some point when gripped by another of his outrageously charming allusive seizures. Destroyer's new record, Your Blues, which contains exactly no blues at all, continues the tradition of excellence begun on sophomore effort Thief, which seemed briefly in danger of lapsing into excess on last year's This Night. Practically lousy with great melodies and lyrics that wax wistful while they reject sentiment, Your Blues is a noble attempt to reconcile love of breezy pop with secret indulgence in pop theory and a great, deep love for the album form with romantic fears about its eventual obsolescence. Put it that way and ask yourself: Wouldn't such a description also accurately peg The Queen Is Dead?
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Well, yes. Except that Morrissey knew enough to table the question of self-awareness most of the time if fame was the goal; Bejar never fully immerses himself in his narrators, unless (notably) he's talking about life in Vancouver, at which point his records tend to find their most naked moments. There is a degree of remove, most of the time. He has traded in the possibility of idol-worship for a job in an icon shop. What this all amounts to is as follows: Destroyer is, yes, as good as the Smiths, probably smarter, less likely to change the world and just as likely to endure. Yes, really.
Don't believe it? Fine, fine. People who aren't one of us usually don't.