Destroyer – First Demo (1995)

Official Title: Destroyer
Release Date: 1995
Release Label: Tinker Recordings
Download: Destroyer’s Demo (320 kbps)

This cassette was never officially released, these recordings made by Dan to send into the legendary CBC radio’s “Brave New Waves,” which used to run a feature called “bag of tapes.” This is incidentally where I cut my own musical teeth, staying up really late to hear all sorts of weird music. Actually, I bet that if you asked, most of the current generation of Canadian musicians had similar experiences with that show…

Most of the songs from this cassette ended up on the album We’ll Build Them a Golden Bridge, though there are three songs from the demo that never made it on the proper album – namely “Dogs Know More Than This,” “Sad Kennedy / Blue Destroyer” and “Karen is in Rome.” All three are played in a style of songs found on Golden Bridge, an album which usually comes with the qualifier “for hardcore fans only.” Which I am not sure that I get – maybe it should be “if the only Destroyer album you own is Rubies, you won’t like this.” People are always trying to warn their friends about “weird” music.

Personally, I am fond of the lo-fi-ness of these recordings. In 1995, Dan Bejar was living in a shitty apartment on Vancouver, and may (or may not) have been living on welfare. On these recordings all share a sense of exploration and experimentation in these songs, and especially important – they all have a sense of making do with the tools available. Artists don’t just emerge out of the womb – they are formed in these kinds of processes – in trial and error, and often out of desperation and innovation. Every so often you catch a glimpse of the musician Bejar would later become (consider the leap between these recordings and, say, City of Daughters which didn’t come out long after).

Of the three unearthed rarities out of this tape, I am most excited about “Sad Kennedy/Blue Destroyer” – which is Dan, an acoustic guitar, a snare drum, and mood to spare. Underlying the song is a haunting melody, which combines nicely with the delivery of the vocals, and the muddled recording to create the mood of a depressing mid-afternoon haze.

“Karen is in Rome” is a short acoustic song that is about a longing for a woman who is always traveling and leaving Dan behind, it also has a similar sense of sadness and desperation. Finally, “Dogs Know More Than This” finds Dan rocking out a little, limited to just his acoustic guitar and snare drum. This song, out of all of the music on the demo is the one that does the best job of predicting the guitar-fueled chaos of This Night, with the all of the fucking around unraveling the song in the end.

Maybe the comparison is too obvious, but these recordings owe a debt to the acoustic based songs found on the early Guided by Voices albums – something that is acknowledged in “Saddestroyer” when he sings “I heard you’re guided by voices / I see you’re really high.” The music employs the same lo-fi four-track trickery you would find on Bee Thousand or Vampire on Titus. At the same time, there is a certain singularity to these songs, which has kind of always been the case with Destroyer.

*A note on the cassette rip – I ripped this, and only did a little bit of hiss-reduction (I wanted to preserve some of the “cassette-ness”). This might not work for you, which I would advise a sound editing program to take out more of the hiss than I have.

__________

SevenTenTwelve is getting shuttered for a week next week, and I won’t be back until April 28th. I am going to study for my candidacy exam that is happening in a month, and I am going to do some Thoreau-esq holing up in a cabin by a lake (aka – away from the Internet).

In the interim, I am reconsidering the site and what I see as its role – essentially, I feel like I need to make a change, as some things about this blog aren’t working out for me anymore/already. I was already thinking this, and it was reiterated to me in discussion on a messageboard about this site that finally allowed me to get a glimpse of what certain people think about this blog – perhaps useful, but maybe emphasizing a more consumerist element to the underground music scene – “buy! buy! buy!” which was something I can honestly say I hadn’t fully considered. Of course there is an element of consumption here (this is essentially a blog about buying records), but at the same time my love for music is entirely non-commodified.

From my prospective, I had always considered what I was doing on SevenTenTwelve as a service to fellow music/record collectors to put certain micro-pressings that I see as desirable (good music, interesting packaging etc), but I can see how this might also be feeding the cycle of hype that ends up causing records released last month to skyrocket on eBay. Not sure how to escape this problem – it seems as much a result of micropressings themselves (simple economics and all) as it does with hype and all that (of which I am a participant in).

I have also been struggling with writing “reviews,” and said group did a nice job of emphasizing some particularly poor choices, so that is something I need to figure out as well. I don’t want SevenTenTelve to be all about “hey, this pre-order is up! buy buy buy!” – but I am also increasingly running out of compelling things to say about music that I like (and especially when I have a “if you can’t say anything nice…” policy at play here – the last thing a band needs is some asshole on a blog writing a nasty review, and thus I am even further limited to coming up with compelling things to say about music that I like).

I think the Killed By Death blog said it best last week:

What the fuck shall I write? I’m not a reviewer. I listen to music and I play music. Reviewer is someone who listen to music and make up words that most of the time fail to describe the music or to get you and idea of how it sounds. There’s very very few times I’ve encountered a review that I’ve read then bought the record and agreed that “yeah I know what you mean”.

Fucking exactly.

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11 thoughts on “Destroyer – First Demo (1995)

  1. i miss brave new waves dearly.

    my two cents:

    your site has definitely directed me towards releases that i otherwise would probably not have known about, or at the very least, found out about after they were out of print (namely blank dogs). in my mind, you’re helping the musicians you like continue to do what they do. as far as i can see, your hyping records and musicians out of the name of love.

    as far as the reviews go, who wants another pitchfork? who needs more overwrought reviews? a lot of the music you seem to like is imperfect/unremarkable, but in that process it becomes perfect/remarkable. my favorite records are ones that leave mistakes in, less polished and more true-to-form to life. it creates moments. a punk band that fucks their set up 5 times but eventually gets it to the point where it’s damn awesome is far more endearing than one that has choreography and style coming out of their ass. as someone who is trying to make a career out of writing, i deal with the same bullshit when it comes to technique and form, etc, etc, and the only thing that allows me to continue is to remember that it’s all out of love.

    it’s a catch 22 – will you still love your passion if you have to make a living doing it? not that you’re getting paid or making a living, but you do live it to some extent.

    i hope you continue on with seven ten twelve!

  2. STT,
    You’ve pointed out tons of great seven inches and bands I would have never found out about, I appreciate that more than anything. I take your impression of the single or their myspace and make up my own mind. There’s so many micro-scenes happening that it’s good to hear someone else obsessing about the same shit and pointing out some things everyone else overlooked. It’s insanely valuable and I check in everyday. I think with this format on this level of music distribution, how can you hype it? It’s over before it even started.
    I’m not here for reviews exactly…I want to know your initial reaction to something I’ve never heard, and then go decide myself. No one’s jumping on any bandwagons I can hear your in it for the right reasons, yes music blogs are a dime a dozen, and it’s obvious what they’re doing…I don’t know I’m selfish because I know I’m going to miss out on some great vinyl.

  3. Pingback: In Other Destroyer News @ The Catbirdseat - Indie Music, Culture, and Commentary

  4. Wow, I never thought it would actually appear. And I’m now really upset that I missed this auction. Amazing. Thanks a ton for digitizing this.

  5. I wanted just to comment on Brave New Waves. I grew up in Michigan border right across from Sarnia so late night CBC programming was a bright beacon.

  6. I actually knew Dan in high school and throught his univeristy years…I rented the four track for him from L & M since I had a car and a credit card. I also lent him the snare drum to him. I had bought it off of a friend.

    It was a shitty apartment (basement suite) just off of Clark and 13th I think. He wasnt on wellfare if I recall…he was never that poor.

    Just a little insight if you wanted it.

  7. Pingback: God don’t make no junk. » Destroyer - Demo Cassette

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