Before Dan Bejar began wooing nerdy music lovers worldwide with his witty self-referential lyrics and musical homages to various periods of unpopular music, the man behind Destroyer was releasing amazing cassettes of sloppy basement four-track recordings. The tape Ideas for Songs
, for instance, was released in 1997 on Granted Passage Records and was the first Destroyer album that I'd purchased. Consisting of 16 homemade recordings, and adorned by a cover with a vintage oil painting of a male nude that looks frighteningly similar to Bejar himself (sorry, I couldn't find the original tape case to post an image, although its probably for the best), the album is very much like it's name suggests: songs poorly recorded with all kinds of mistakes left in, filled with out-of-sync drums and tape hiss to spare. But the primitiveness of the recordings and the sloppiness of the musicianship really only hide what are actually a bunch of great songs that, if recorded better, could easily hold their own against anything on City of Daughters
. But I actually find the sloppy recordings, doubled up vocals, and primitive instrumentation to be great in their own right. Until the outstanding Streethawk: A Seduction
had been released, I was even starting to wish that Bejar would move back to his four-track, indie rock roots. But I've recently started to realize that each album is a tribute to a different genre of bad music, and should be taken for what it is. Like the last few Leonard Cohen albums, Bejar's gift is making great songs in spite of his musical accompaniment.
One the whole, Ideas for Songs
is a mixture of solo-acoustic numbers and more layered tracks that usually have a single snare drum, a dying casio keyboard, and a plucked lead guitar line. I chose these two songs because they show how this early cassette fits in with the larger evolution of Destroyer. In both these songs you can see a definite similarity to bands like the Silver Jews or Pavement, with lyrics consisting of throwaway lines like "a language with curves, girlfriended and giddy", misused cliches, and no real narrative structure. But at the same time you see that the songs are built on the same catchy pop/folk-song structures that made City of Daughters
so great.Destroyer - The Terror Serves a PurposeDestroyer - Why Banacek Doesn't Love
In the next day or two, I'll also do a post about the first Destroyer CD release, We'll Build Them a Golden Bridge
, so stay tuned. Also, I apologise for the poor sound quality. The originals are pretty sketchy already, but I think the ancient walkman I used to rip these songs onto my computer (which I only recently realized was the only tape playback device in my apartment) probably further degraded the songs. Oh well. I hope you enjoy them anyway. I have a feeling that these songs will probably never be released again, but I hope that I'm wrong for all of your sakes.