Since the mid ‘90s, singer-songwriter Dan Bejar’s Destroyer project has always been flooded with comparisons to the great rock music of yore. From Leonard Cohen and David Bowie to Roxy Music, Destroyer’s constantly shifting sound always finds a way to invade a new, name check-able era while still seeming fresh, thanks in large part to Bejar’s secret weapon: himself. Carrying a theatrical swagger on stage and record, Bejar comes off less like an indie rock musician and more like a poet unstuck from time. On the tenth Destroyer record, Poison Season, the frontman/maestro fully commits to forging a bombastic sound.
The album adds blaring saxophones and atmospheric string sections which, when combined with the occasional disco production or Latin drumline, give way to comparisons to everything from glam Bowie to a spy thriller soundtrack. The album never feels small, though it lurks in the shadows as much as it blasts. Standout brooding tracks like “Girl In A Sling” and the “Times Square, Poison Season” bookends are buried in atmospheric strings and piano, though it’s the louder tracks where Poison Season really shines. Look no further than “Dream Lover,” bursting out following the subdued first track without hesitation, an absolute steam roll of Springsteen-esque energy that never lets up. It’s almost unfair to have it sequenced so early, as nothing else on the album matches its intensity.
In front of his band, Bejar is still undoubtedly the star. Packing his lyrical tropes of impossibly romantic imagery and characters, Canadian indie rock’s great curmudgeon has never sounded quite so much like a frontman. He has fully embraced the theatricality that got him here, allowing the seething conviction in his vocals to shine. Bejar channels love and disdain almost interchangeably. On “Dream Lover” and “Times Square” he’s leaving his troubles behind and embracing the idealism of both people and places, only for the same concepts to begin decaying later on; both moods are stuffed with equally beautiful imagery.
This is the first Destroyer album following the surprise success of Kaputt and, with all its drama and grandiosity, Poison Season seems like the perfect reaction. It works as both a primer for what Bejar and company. do best, but features some of the project’s crispest production and a freshly dynamic vocal performance to light a fire under old fans. The album’s third and fourth acts do tend to get tedious, especially when Bejar’s vocals take a break in favour of extended instrumental stretches. Despite this, the record remains a showcase of one of modern music’s most delightfully enigmatic figures embracing his own cult of personality to great returns.