Friday, June 26, 2009

Music Library: Destroy All Monsters, Destroyer, Devendra Banhart

Destroy All Monsters - Bored. DAM were an arty protopunk band when Ron Asheton of the Stooges joined them in the late 70s and (apparently) pushed them into some sleazy-ass rock & roll. This is that sleazy-ass rock & roll.

Destroyer - This Night, Destroyer's Rubies, Trouble In Dreams. One of the most interesting aspect of David Bowie's career is how he both built and celebrated a type of rock that had previously been mostly the province of moderately talented kids kicking around in a garage while simulataneously denying the simplicity that those kids built their garage rock around. On The Man Who Sold The World (which is my favorite Bowie album), the guitars snarl, the vocals swell and swoop, the drums reach out and insist that you move, but yet the songs themselves are practically showtunes in how they morph from one thing into another, following an internal logic that subverts the three-chord truth of, say, the Count 5ive. If you're wondering why I'm talking about Bowie's early career in a review of Destroyer, the main project of New Pornographer Dan Bejar, then, well, you've never listened to Destroyer. Bejar takes Bowie's strategies and uses them to expose his soul. The songs are faintly ridiculous in their celebration of rock excess - lots of wailing guitars, "da da da/la la la" refrains, catch-you-in-the-throat dynamics - but they're like Bowie's showtunes as well, built around a central conceit that is never simple and always demanding of attention. Phenomenal. I resisted Destroyer at first, Yer Blues being the first album I heard. I think it's an unusual album for them/him, driven by synths and MIDI vocals. But when I heard Destroyer's Rubies, I was blown away. And yet I haven't been very active in pursuing his back catalog, because the music is important and demanding enough that I feel unable to give it the attention it deserves. I should move more swiftly.

Devendra Banhart - Oh Me Oh My...The Way the Day Goes By the Sun Is Setting Dogs Are Dreaming Lovesongs of the Christmas Spirit, Rejoicing in the Hands of the Golden Empress, Niño Rojo, and Cripple Crow. The iPod is now - and has been for a few years - the primary way that I listen to music, which is important because I rarely listen to full albums outside of this project. I used to, by golly, but today it's all about the shuffle. Anyway, this is significant here because while I appreciate Banhart's music quite a bit, I find the whole of these albums a little overwhelming. I don't think I'd ever listened to any one of these in its entirety before today, other than Cripple Crow, which is a little different from the others. And, see, here's the thing: I don't know that I would cut any single track, because I generally like them and enjoy them when they crop up in the shuffle, but the whole album all together is the difference between having a nice chat when you run into an old hippie friend on the street and spending a week in his apartment. But Cripple Creek is just great, heads or tails above the acoustic Banhart albums by virtue of having an actual band playing on the songs.

Devendra Banhart & Jana Hunter - s/t. This is a self-titled split album between the two named artists. Side one is all Banhart playing a few tracks acoustic, including a handful from Niño Rojo. Side two is all Jana Hunter, a talented indie folk songwriter in her own right.


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