Whatever Succeeds Despite Itself Actually Sucks

The bad news about the new Destroyer album begins with the appearance of a Swan Lake song – as if anything from that noodling nightmare of an album needed rehashing — and continues with Punkfork’s blood-curdling-ly laughable review today.

Reviewer William Bowers, while a smart cat, steals our life-minutes with his six-sentence GRE-test method of writing reviews (we last deprogrammed him for his Annuals review). While he could simply write “Trouble In Dreams: Destroyer’s descent begins,” (and he later admits he could have cut it short) we get sentences like the following one, which alone commits a crime against aesthetics (not to mention using a word that doesn’t exist):

In 1996, GBV [Guided by Voices] were where Destroyer is today: facing a not-quite-backlash as their longevity had begun to work against the initial reasons for fan excitement– what were once signature eccentricities now have become anticipatable.

An inaccurate comparison, to say the least, in that Destroyer was never a band but really just Bejar, while GBV, although somewhat always Pollard-lead, was most surely a band until losing its most band-like form around 1996. Pollard was all that was left after that, using Cobra Verde, wholly, as his backing band for a GBV-titled solo career. Trust me on that; I saw them live both in ’93 and ’96, and the difference was startling (and sad). Bejar, unlike Pollard, never had a Tobin Sprout who, pre-’95, checked Pollard’s quirks from reaching self-parody by dropping gorgeous, clear-minded pop nuggets in the midst of most proceedings (“Esther’s Day,” “Like Soul, Man,” etc). Bejar’s easily parodied because he’s relentless and self involved. There’s no relief from the forced density. Duly, his concerts are sausage parties. But even my wife went to GBV shows – twice, too. Shit, she and I ate pot brownies and saw GBV at Maxwell’s on New Years’ eve 1998 (99? 2000?) with a full buffet table for $30. I handed Pollard a slice of turkey. He traded me a can of Schlitz.

Mockery usually lacks its target’s magic, though, and Bejar is pretty much an untouchable wizard.

An untouchable wizard: I say no. A charlatan? As for mockery, in many cases it transcends its target, in that mockery is well-employed – and therefore an art — when it unveils magic as simple fraud. See Penn & Teller.

Trouble in Dreams succeeds despite itself, despite contemporary tastes, and despite the cynicism its grandiosity triggers in all of us breathing, farting, pedestrian mortals– cynicism to which it’s immune because it’s so pretended itself away to another world.

Whatever succeeds despite itself is a tragedy. If I’m wrong, art is dead.

But one can’t be embarrassed for Bejar in regards to this album’s hyperdramatic wince-worthy turns– or an uptick in his nonsense-syllable scatting thing– because he clearly doesn’t care what we “think.”

Then what pays his bills? If he didn’t care what we thought, Bejar would make sure not to record his music at all, or at least not for Merge who, while a wonderful little label-who-could, is a Warner’s distributed biz. This is Bowers’s hero-worship getting away from him.

He’s so dedicated to his unbearable fringes that he sells them– like the kid from junior high so unconcerned with cool that he had to settle for being totally fucking awesome.

Mr. Bowers, I bet you own an oft-watched DVD bootleg of Napoleon Dynamite. Where I grew up, those kids learned to run fast, or they bit the curb.

Not that Destroyer doesn’t try to have it both ways: The risky, invested intensity of his delivery is leavened with the detachment of it not being so gauche as to specifically mean anything.

Gayatri Spivak has been more succinct.

Like an XTC Skynyrd with pinches of Marr and Malkmus sautéed in Beatles and Bowie.

I think I read this sentence once in the Hanover Park High School newspaper. Also, I think only Mick Jagger has ever truly been sauteed in Bowie.

The hotfoot confidence of a certain recent celebrated Destroyer album gets paired with the disheveled sprawl of another– if only Pitchfork would pay me for a three-word review, I could have just typed: This Night’s Rubies.

You get paid for this? Now I see why you winged it.

At first listen, the album seemed long because something was running a little lean. I thought I’d gone from the enjoyable thrill of wondering what Bejar was talking about to the jaded position of not caring. But after multiple spins, I’m confusingly seduced by the vermouth-versus-absinthe reverie of its arrangements, pronouncements, and elliptical solos. Here’s a guy fussily throwing his whole soul into his camouflage.

In other words, Mr. Bowers, what you most like about Trouble in Dreams is not knowing what to think about Trouble in Dreams. What’s the point of reviewing something when you can’t figure out what to say about it, in a final sense? To do so is to write a fine diary entry, but it doesn’t belong in public with a rating atop. Or, you willfully camouflage your review in kudzu-like verbiage to the point where the wrongheaded aesthetic of willful but vacuous complication becomes all you have to offer, much like Bejar, and we go waltzing down a useless corridor with countless teenagers who will now imitate you and court obfuscation as literary conceit, confusion as art. We’ll be left with more heroes we don’t need.


7 thoughts on “Whatever Succeeds Despite Itself Actually Sucks

  1. I’ve never been sauteed in Bowie, but I was once braised in an ungodly stew of Grand Funk and the Guess Who. I got second degree burns over 94% of my body.


  2. Maybe Bowers was writing a long review that didn’t really make sense and has no clear thesis, because that’s what the album is like. I would like to believe it, but that Bowie line really makes it hard to.


  3. i think i lost a couple of brain cells trying to read that pitchfork review. i don’t even know why i still try sometimes.i did like the destroyer album though. not his best work, but definitely has its moments (“libby’s first sunrise”, especially)


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