Destroyer played The Village Underground last night to support their Kaputt album.
Reason I’m not cool #349
When a friend offered me the chance to see Destroyer, my mind immediately conjured up the cover of the classic Kiss album. Four cartoon clown-faced rock heroes striding boldly out of Detroit Rock City looking for merchandising opportunities.
But this Destroyer is a band whose album Kaputt I have played quite a bit this year in an attempt to like it.
Some albums are like that – they need a few listens before you make your mind up. I tried it with Alt-J this year, which didn’t really work – I know it won the Mercury, but it remains something of a curate’s egg for me. I tried it also with Radiohead’s King of Limbs which worked perfectly – a great record.
After about ten plays of Kaputt, I came to the conclusion Destroyer sounded a bit like The Pet Shop Boys only without the wry wit and jokes.
I played it to my wife, who after three songs said “They’re a bit like The Pet Shop Boys, but not as cheerful”. She’s quicker on the uptake than I am.
So I was curious to know how Destroyer would sound live, because a cursory check on the internet tells me this outfit is headed up by occasional New Pornographer (the band, not the profession) Dan Bejar, and that this is his ninth album – and something of a departure from his usual style. As ever, I’m at the cutting edge of new music – I’d never heard of him.
I made the trip across to East London‘s Village Underground (the venue – not a political movement) to check them out.
The Village Underground is a quirky place. Home, apparently, to a creative community housed in old shipping containers and tube trains, it is a hidden corner of East London underneath some railway arches. It is also a small but perfectly formed venue with excellent acoustics.
At the vast majority of gigs that I have been to (especially the ones from twenty years ago) I have been surrounded by leather and denim clad rocker-types drinking cheap beer. There are pros and cons associated with this. The pros are that rockers are almost always very nice, considerate and polite. Friendly crowds – always more into the music than chatting to their mates on phones or updating their Facebook profiles. Very few idiots.
The main con?
I remember taking a friend to the upstairs at The Hammersmith Odeon many years ago where a denim clad rocker sat next to us. Whilst he was very polite and nice, the accompanying stench would have seen him turned away from a tramps’ convention and was certainly a distraction from the band.
The Village Underground crowd was happily very fragrant and refreshingly lacking in idiots, albeit Brogue-wearing East London Hipster-beardy-types were liberally scattered. Nothing wrong with that.
Well – to say they were like The Pet Shop Boys – which is what I was expecting – would be doing them a massive, humungous, devastating disservice.
The difference between the record and the live band? It was like going to see Sade or The Pet Shop Boys and seeing the E Street Band instead. What a difference!
Playing a number of songs from Kaputt allowed the seven piece band backing Bejar to open up – and they rocked the 500 strong crowd most emphatically. After opener Savage Night At The Opera – in case anyone was in any doubt about their Rock Credentials – the band wailed through European Oils more resembling an eight piece psychedelic ensemble rather than a couple of chaps sitting at their keyboards with ironic cones on their heads.
The snappily titled Suicide Demo For Kara Walker followed after an interminable trumpet / Eno-style midi unit solo, with Blue Eyes and Kaputt both swiftly making their presence known, and by the end of the night any lingering doubts that the band was the Genuine Article were well and truly expelled. Bejar came across more as a Reed / Dylan character than a Tennant – and was all the better for it.
A genuine and very pleasant surprise package. Look out for Destroyer on tour – whatever you think of Kaputt…
Record #116: Destroyer – Kaputt