Something strange happened to rock music in 2010: Soft-focus sax solos stopped being funny. Well, they’re still sort of funny, but indie groups like Gayngs and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti have reclaimed the smooth-as-Aja sonic textures that characterized the lite-FM songs they first encountered in the back seats of minivans 30 years ago. While attempts at reviving the gently swinging spotlessness of records like Roxy Music’s Avalon typically toe the line between winking irony and gushingly emotive sincerity, leave it to a sherry-sipping, lovesick fool like Dan Bejar of Destroyer to go full-on gauche on Kaputt. An album that’s as stunning for its straight-faced chutzpah as for its unrepentant, obsessively well-coiffed lushness, Kaputt elevates Bejar’s affected aloofness to intoxicating levels of bearskin-rug romanticism.
While Kaputt doesn’t sound anything like past Destroyer records—with the exception of 2009’s two-song Bay Of Pigs EP, which lends its icily atmospheric 13-minute title track to Kaputt in slightly shortened form—it isn’t entirely unexpected coming from Bejar, a highly mannered stylist whose densely lyrical songs and theatrical vocals have long made his music a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. But unlike recent efforts like 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies and 2008’s Trouble In Dreams, which were relatively conventional, rock-oriented records, Kaputt traffics in decadent disco rhythms and blue-toned synths that evoke a “vacation on the dark side of forever,” as Bejar sings on the standout “Song For America.” Bejar’s songwriting is terrifically eccentric as always on story-songs like “Chinatown” and “Savage Night At The Opera,” but Kaputt is first and foremost a mood record. At its best, like the captivatingly cinematic career highlight “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker,” Kaputt rolls luxuriously in its own plush soft-rock grandeur, powerfully alluring and deeply sad at the same time.