March 28, 2006

Bejar is his own independent-minded destroyer

Do you know the difference between a talented egoist and a perpetual prodigy? It’s in how they slow down. The egoists will go nervously quiet, waiting for applause. In the more-fun world of the prodigy, “quiet” or even “slow” are just other modes of expression that they’ll suddenly switch into — albeit those are among the modes that see limited use. Dan Bejar, along with the latest band that he’s assembled under the moniker Destroyer, can’t seem to stop adding in new and varying sections to songs. Bejar might sing out a tumble of words until it isn’t really singing at all, and then a sweetly melodic passage will be played full-roar over the proceedings and take over. It’s as if you were hearing a segue on classic-rock radio between two separate recordings that just happen to share some chords. And have similar, complex lyrical subjects and attitudes.Bejar’s a fixture of the Vancouver scene and has assembled bands on a project-by-project basis since the second Destroyer album. He’s taking the latest incarnation on the road in the wake of his/their sixth album (which is why you didn’t see him in the recent visit by the touring version of indie rock supergroup New Pornographers, for which he’s a major contributor).The sound of Destroyer’s Rubies (Merge Records) is, like its five predecessors, vibrantly distinct. The arrangements ride short waves of glam-rock, art-rock and folk-influenced pop-rock, all with lovely elements straight from the 1970s, but assembled by someone who seems to be recovering from a flirtation with postmodernism. The leadoff title track is epic in length and broad in scope, but fights off the prete nse of being an anthem. “European Oils” has a choir of wordless backing vocals framing a fantastic run of fuzz-guitar. Often during the 10 tracks, horns and odd percussion touches show up and take convincing claim for their territory, but then are chased away by Bejar’s mile-a-minute stream-of-observation vocals.In a quick phone exchange, Bejar is easygoing. He’s soft-spoken, but as sharp as is his reputation. Destroyer doesn’t hit the road often, he says. There are reasons that the tour’s shows will reflect the direction of the new recordings. “The bulk of what we’ll play is off the new record,” he says. “There’ll be five of us. Pretty much everybody who’s on the record. Missing just the vibe and trumpet player. It’s tough to balance those in the sound mix onstage.” The bandleader clearly wants the details of the ensemble sound to come out right, and he shares that he’ll be all over the sound checks at every location. As to writing the songs for Destroyer’s Rubies: “All of them were written at one time, except for the last.” The holdout, then, is “Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever,” which works with a relaxed pace, but its reflections of early CSNY become deliciously unhinged.• On Friday, March 31, Headliners is hosting two ensembles that keep things tight in an age where jambands have made it borderline-respectable to stretch out to eternity. The main set is by New Orleans-based Galactic, a veritable machine of ass-shake-inspiring funk workouts that’s received attention in these pages before.Opening up is the Gamble Brothers Band, a Memphis quartet on the road to promote its second release, Continuator (on Archer Records). The two brothers and their two compadres sometimes keep to tasty R&B-flavored hooks with horn charts. The leadoff “Overboard,” for instance, delivers a more-focused version of what often comes out of Dave Matthews singles. On a song like “E. Parkway Rundown,” though, you get to see just how this modest band can get interesting and engaging, but without dragging. Keyboardist/vocalist Al Gamble and sax ace Art Edmaiston get into quixotic tradeoffs that make you first forget, and then become glad, that the group doesn’t bother with a guitar player.• Briefly, we’d like to apprise you of a few changes at the Jazz Factory. Most imminently, the regular set times for weekend shows have been modified to match the rest of the week. You can still expect two sets, the first at 7:30 p.m. and the second at 9:30 p.m. Ken Shapero and the gang are still figuring ways to fill the late-night spot vacated by the earlier set times. Likewise, a new menu is on the horizon, to be unveiled in the coming weeks. Some new kitchen equipment has given way to an expanded and diversified menu. Similarly, the illustrious singer-bartender Suki Anderson has conjured a few new summer drinks. So you’re aware. Contact the writer at tlx@aol.com