Have We Met

BY Matthew BlenkarnPublished Jan 28, 2020

Dan Bejar was flirting with disaster when he began writing the latest Destroyer record. Originally conceived as a Y2K throwback, Have We Met lost its high-concept hook as longtime collaborator John Collins fleshed out Bejar's demos. Aside from a trip-hop pulse on "Kinda Dark," the finished product bears little resemblance to music at the turn of the millennium.
It does, however, retain the faint menace of a time when a coding error could end the world as we know it. Alluding to everything from the Boston Strangler to an unnamed group that threatens dismemberment, plenty of perils lurk behind Have We Met's new wave veneer.
But Bejar's 12th solo album is also tender, and even at times sentimental, a contradiction that's more of a feature than a bug. His flair for aphorisms and louche one-liners goes a long way in harmonizing these discrete tones. On "foolssong," for example, a line about kissing under a bridge is immediately countered with one about chewing a wrist.
The music on Have We Met is frequently as charming as the lyrics. Bejar and Collins have dialled down the dance influences found on 2017's ken, but kept the synthesizers. The result is a record propelled by new wave and '80s pop: see the irresistible OMD-style keyboard hook on "It Just Doesn't Happen" or the squelching bass and flange-laden guitar on opener "Crimson Tide."
It makes for immersive listening, even when tracks fail to sustain themselves. "The Television Music Supervisor" gradually drifts through one verse over the course of four minutes; the title track is shorter, but its rustic psychedelia reaches a similar dead end.
Despite its digressions, Have We Met is rich and varied enough to offer more than just throwback thrills. It's further proof that amid both destruction and devotion, Bejar's voice remains compelling.
(Merge Records)

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