On the eve of its tenth anniversary, Kaputt remains the kind of album that needs to be appreciated — on whatever level that means to you — not understood.
Of all the creepy Destroyer albums Dan Bejar has released over the years, Kaputt is the creepiest. Destroyer’s ninth album (released ten years ago on January 25, 2011) is a greasy-haired gigolo staring at you with eyes that say, “I want to make love to you in strange, perverted, and — in some jurisdictions — illegal ways.” Creepier still is how irresistibly seductive a record it is, which is the reason why, perhaps against their better judgement, fans continue to fall for its sleazeball charm by the time album opener “Chinatown” reaches its sultry, sexy climax.
Bejar freely admits that “…there are some creepy qualities” to Kaputt, just as there have been on previous Destroyer releases, adding that his “…full-on presence might make some… jittery or antsy.” That’s always been the case with me; before Kaputt, listening to Destroyer albums was always a nervous affair. Albums like Your Blues and Thief either left me scratching my head or itching to press stop and put on something a little less unsettling.
Kaputt was — and still is — an altogether different matter. Judging by its popularity and critical success, Kaputt was the gateway into Destroyer’s ferocious and fearless musical landscapes for me and many others. While sharp changes in style and sound have always been Bejar’s signature, his full-on embrace of 80s soft-rock and innocuous smooth jazz vibes in 2011 left many wondering whether Bejar was sincere or was he taking the piss. Was he playing the part of a washed-up musical has-been or making a pointed criticism about disposable celebrity culture? Or both? Or neither? Hindsight and three subsequentalbums remind us that, when it comes to Destroyer, questions about intent and meaning never have black and white answers; Bejar revels in the grey. It’s why a song so perfectly poised as the title track works on so many levels. Musically, “Kaputt” is slow-motion running on the beach wearing a bikini against a blazing sunset. Lyrically, it’s stumbling bleary-eyed across the sand at dawn, unable to account for the previous night’s escapades or the bloodstains on your trousers. Though these elements are diametrical to each other, they meet in perfect harmony at the opposite pole from where they started.
Dive as deep into Kaputt’s lyrical pool as your stamina and intellect will allow; it’s rife with cultural references, both witty and wise. Peeling away at the layers of kitsch of songs like “Blue Eyes” and “Poor In Love” reveals not only Bejar’s lyrical depth and humour but his remarkable ability to turn a decadent and entitled musical aesthetic on itself. Or take its muted horns and velvety bass at face value and put it on in the background of your next dinner/key party. The choice is yours, just as Bejar always intended it to be. Kaputt is the kind of album that needs to be appreciated — on whatever level that means to you — not understood.