Destroyer – Streethawk: A Seduction

Streethawk: A Seduction

Continuing his campaign for best singer/songwriter in independent music today, Dan Bejar shows up with his latest album under the Destroyer project. While 2000’s Thief was one of the most under-rated, difficult-to-find, and amazing pop albums of the year, 2001’s Streethawk: A Seduction is nearly as catchy and leaps and bounds forward in terms of pop songwriting. And despite the recognition Bejar received as primary songwriter of the indie rock supergroup The New Pornographers, Destroyer is where his true talents shine.
Now a full-time quintet lead by Bejar, Destroyer is first and foremost a pop band, and a simple one at that. Influenced by the 60’s and 70’s pop of the Beatles and Bowie equally, there is nonetheless a true indie rock aesthetic to these songs found only in the best songs by bands like Pavement and Neutral Milk Hotel. Bejar’s first instrument, beyond his high-pitched voice, is the piano, and it is used here significantly. Yet it’s put aside often as well to let the pop songs shine through, something that Thief wasn’t always able to do.
The Bowie comparisons are evident from the piano-driven power-pop of the opener “Streethawk I,” as Bejar sings “as we lay down our weapons, and sure enough, we are slain by that stuff.” It doesn’t quite compare to the momentous “The Bad Arts,” however, which explodes (literally) at one point, recedes into gentle pop singing, and has moments of beauty and complexity. “You’ve got to stay critical or die,” Bejar sings in the poppy, organ-filled “Beggars Might Ride,” while the more emphatic rock music on “The Sublimation Hour” takes the focus, allowing Bejar to ask “well isn’t that what rock-n-roll is all about?”
Bejar shows off his penchant for literary-filled intellectual lyrics on songs like the contemplative “Virgin with a Memory” and does his best Elvis Costello impression on the very poppy piano song “The Very Modern Dance.” The quiet and rich “Helena” and “Strike” brilliantly showcase Bejar’s unique singing style and songwriting ability.
Some have said Streethawk: A Seduction has some kind of common theme tying it together, but Bejar dismisses that. It’s just a pop album, with its retro influences and indie rock sensibilities. And with Bejar writing the songs, this album deserves recognition. Truly a marvelous piece of music, it must be heard.