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Destroyer - Notorious Lightning and Other Works

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Artist: Destroyer

Album: Notorious Lightning and Other Works

Label: Merge

Review date: Feb. 7, 2005

Notorious Lighting and Other Works marks the first studio collaboration between Destroyer mastermind Daniel Bejar and fellow Vancouver natives Frog Eyes, who also served as his most recent touring band. In what might seem a rather counterintuitive move, the EP reworks 6 tracks from Destroyer’s Your Blues, paring down the album’s baroque synthesizer orchestrations to a more conventional rock-band format. The music itself, however can hardly be called conventional: like a band of frenzied glam-rock cavemen, Frog Eyes pound away mercilessly while Bejar executes the most impressive vocal acrobatics of his career. While it may not be quite as impressive as Your Blues,Notorious Lightning contains the most uninhibited and spontaneous recordings ever released under the Destroyer moniker, and stands as yet another attestation to Bejar’s ability to move effortlessly between genres.

Upon first listen, Notorious Lightning may sound a bit chaotic and obnoxious, particularly to listeners familiar with the far more genteel renderings on Your Blues. Casey Mercer’s prominent guitar leads are a major point of contention, as they rarely seem to work with the songs’ melody or rhythm, tending instead to act as a distracting and inharmonious counterpoint to Bejar’s vocals. Other elements in the somewhat muddy mix, particularly keyboards, are often so buried that they become audible only for moments at a time; it seems that too much is going on, and every player seems headed in a slightly different direction. It may be this seeming disorganization, however, that gives these performances their charm: the strength of Bejar’s melodies and vocals are focused enough to keep things from descending into chaos, while the band’s spontaneity add a manic energy that might be stifled by more precise arrangements.

All questions of style and arrangements aside, it’s Bejar’s presence and personality that matters most: his stylized vocal delivery reaches new heights here, blurring the line between theatrical contrivance and spontaneous invention. Even if the lyrics frequently verge on the nonsensical, it’s how and not what’s being said that really matters. Bejar’s pronunciation of the word “music” on “The Music Lovers” achieves a sublime union of sound and signification, while his nonsense syllables (yeahs, las, das, etc.) are more compelling than the lyrics of many of his peers.

While its brevity and unpolished execution may suggest that Notorious Lightning is little more than a gap-filler EP, it doesn’t constitute a major dip in quality from Destroyer’s full-lengths. Even if one sees it as a mere footnote or appendix to its more fully-realized predecessor, it’s certainly a welcome one.

By Michael Cramer

Other Reviews of Destroyer

This Night

Your Blues

Destroyer's Rubies

We'll Build Them A Golden Bridge

Trouble in Dreams

Streethawk: A Seduction / Thief / City of Daughters


Read More

View all articles by Michael Cramer

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