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coverpic flag Canada - Full Moon 126 - 01/03/07

Destroyer's Rubies
Merge Records

Retreating from the big, echoing, synthetic fortress of 2004's Your Blues for a more contemporary band sound, Dan Bejar (Canada's answer to Jim O'Rourke) leads his daring ensemble to just about the closest thing that big band indie has gotten to certain, perfected folk rock models-at least in method. Such a transition is more fluid because Destroyer is much more at the disposal of Bejar's varied creativity than Broken Social Scene is the single, united instrument of central figures Kevin Drew or Brendan Canning; even more than Arcade Fire is really Win Butler's solitary instrument. Such a list of creatively diverse heavy hitters could go on to include such mixed bowls and collective efforts as Camera Obscura, Cursive and their respective and cooperative internal forces.

The only remarkable contender when considering opaque indie bands featuring the work a solitary figure-head is Neutral Milk Hotel. Love or hate them, Jeff Magnum did manage a single artist vision projected by a united clan of willing musicians. In contrast, as Destroyer applies similar in-band chemistry, the music feels calculated and direct where as the glory (or to some disgust) of NMH was their slapdash marching band arrangement.

Unlike most of the said indie brethren, Destroyer keeps its clean tradition-dispelling any howling garage mystique and retaining their usual attention to unique soundscapes. From the introductory jam and subtle growl deliverance of "Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever" we are introduced to a field Destroyer has yet touched: Bob Dylan and the Band. Once again, this is no rag-tag record, so there are no allusions to The Basement Tapes. Destroyer's crystalline pop on Rubies is more derived from 1974's much overlooked Planet Waves. Similarly, that record was released as Dylan was getting back on the contemporary track after a four year tail-spin topped off by the much loathed Self-Portrait.

Destroyer may not be recovering from disaster, but there's no harm in retracting after pushing a former sound to the brink of its potential. As Dylan, Robbie Robertson, and Ray Davies proved there's no better way to turn around than looking back: "I was just another west-coast maximalist exploring the blues" he sings of his early musical adventures on "Priest's Knees". Regardless if this self deprecation is true, he fills out the profile precisely on Rubies - and it's a great thing.

Copyright © 2007 Matthew DeMello e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Destroyer article/review: Destroyer's Rubies.

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