Published Apr 01, 2000"I hope it's not just a pop record," says Destroyer's Daniel Bejar from Vancouver. "A lot of people just hear some arty lyrics and say 'here's some indie rock poet wannabe' and don't get closer than that. It would be so cool if I could actually explain some kind of operating system within the lyrics, pull it together, and say, 'This is what it's about.'"
Destroyer is a far cry from the rest of the poets, from whom meaning is foisted upon the listener in the form of "whatever it means to you," all too often to cover for the very lack of substance in the first place. Instead, Destroyer's latest pop masterpiece, Thief, is a full-fledged concept album about the music industry, "a work of outsider fiction more than the inside scoop," according to Bejar.
Destroyer certainly has the scoop on the vagaries of the biz, having already produced two independent records (1996's We'll Build Them A Golden Bridge and 1998's City of Daughters) where many decisions were influenced as much by economics as artistic considerations. Bejar's dwindling funds resulted in the sparse feel of City of Daughters; when he ran out of money, quickly laying down some tracks with an acoustic guitar fleshed out the album. Thief was recorded with the generosity of the band's bassist John Collins, who had to squeeze sessions in between paying gigs, delaying the process. Even Thief's "concept" is dependent on good ears, since Bejar couldn't afford the extra CD book panels to print the lyrics.
In Thief's case, the medium is part of the message. "The whole package is very limited by money. Think about what I'm saying, how I'm saying it, and why this falls outside of the shit that gets paid for. At the same time, it's a romantic piece of work, as opposed to saying 'woe is me.' It's basically saying, 'Come join us.'"
The hilarious one-sheet sent to press — a revolutionary cultural manifesto written by friend and long-time fan Nicholas Bragg — would serve as a better album insert than a lyric sheet. He writes, "Recognize that accolades can be bought, that the video is the new ad, and that while record labels scurry to dream up credibility campaigns for their indentured artists (who robotically endorse the cologne whiffs of the new capitalism soundtrack), there still remains a choice." Or more simply, as Bejar sings on Thief's opening track: "There's joy in being barred from the Temple."