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.

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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.

Frog Eyes / Hello Blue Roses Split 7″

Frog Eyes:
Policy Merchant
Stockades

Hello Blue Roses:
Foam Hands
Wall of Death (Richard and Linda Thompson)

Purchase directly from Absolutely Kosher

My internet stardom came and went in seconds.

Last summer, my GF and I went to the Sled Island Festival in Calgary, Alberta Canada, and being Destroyer obsessives, went super early to get sweet seats at the Grace Presbyterian Church for the Destroyer and Chad VanGaalen show. Getting there super early meant that we ended up sitting in the front row, which was a real treat because Dan was in amazing form that night – sitting in a crowded church of people being absolutely reverent, it was a religious experience. One of the songs that Dan played for the (possibly first) time was “Foam Hands,” which we promptly uploaded to YouTube and told a few people about. Next thing you know, it is on Pitchfork and Stereogum… the Internet does its thing.

Like everyone else in the world who heard “Foam Hands,” I fell in love with that song. It re-confirmed everything I love about Dan Bejar’s songs – sharp, witty lyrics with obtuse pop-culture references (in this instance “Since U Been Gone”). When I heard, way the hell back in October, that Hello Blue Roses was doing a split with Frog Eyes, and would be doing a version of “Foam Hands” I freaked out. It was enough to get me to start doing this very blog.

And then I waited. And waited. I ordered this on October 17th and it just arrived today. This is the danger of pre-ordering vinyl – shit happens, but I have waited a long time for this record – 112 days to be exact. 112 days of anxious waiting.

So I get it, put it on the turntable and… I don’t know. The Hello Blue Roses side, the pairing of Dan and his SO Sydney Vermont, suffers from the same thing (for me) that the full length suffers, namely Sydney’s vocal affectations. I have heard a few of her songs where she loses it (look for a new album soon from her other band with Dan called Bonaparte where she brings the rock), and I think she has a great voice. Yet, when she is doing the HBR stuff she has this weird… drawl. I don’t know. I don’t like it. Yet, you cannot keep a good song down, and “Foam Hands” manages to overcome. Barely.  Thankfully, the Linda and Richard Thomson cover delivers, with Dan and Sydney trading off. It is sweet, and I do like it. A split decision.
I was just as excited for The Frog Eyes side, and they (thankfully) end up making this split an absolute must have. I always forget how much I love Frog Eyes. Every time that I put it on, I am always blown away. Their side of this split is fucking rad. Two re-workings of songs off last years radical Tears of the Valedictorian, they re-do these songs and do them justice. These songs seem like they could have been recorded in the 1950’s, or been featured on Twin Peaks or something. I can’t wait until they put out another album.

Can I make this way too long post even longer, and suggest that it is a fucking tragedy that Frog Eyes aren’t huge superstars. I know, I know, lots of people really hate the singing (or think they do), but I challenge anyone who claims to “hate” Carey Mercer’s singing to listen to these two songs to keep that position. Try “Policy Merchant.”ot

Bottom line: HBR side is kind of ok / Frog Eyes side is amazicon.