Longtime Destroyer fans should by now be used to Dan Bejar's wandering muse. His stylistic changes aren't as extreme as, say, Beck's, and aren't as (in)famous as David Bowie, an artist whom Bejar is often compared to. Bejar's best known one-two curveball was 2004's Your Blues album, a synth/keyboard orchestral-pop masterpiece, along with the subsequent tour and EP (the underrated Notorious Lightning & Other Works) with the unhinged Frog Eyes as a backing band. Destroyer's next two albums were relatively straightforward indie rock/singer songwriter stuff, so I'd have to assume Bay Of Pigs came as a shock to newer fans.
At any rate, Bay Of Pigs returns Bejar, at least conceptually, to the synth/keyboard heavy Your Blues. But where that album had a purposefully cheap MIDI sound to it, this one sounds clean, slick, modern, and like the work of a full band instead of a single lab rat. Various reviews have described the title track as disco-ish, but to these ears it's more like 80s synth-pop with a good sense of groove than it is some Saturday Night Fever dreck. At thirteen-and-a-half minutes, it also has time for eerie atmospheric intro and outro sections, and lets Bejar go on and on in his 'Tangled Up In Blue'/Dylan-esque storyteller mode, weaving yet more references to characters, places, and events from his body of work, as well as adding some new ones. 'Ravers', meanwhile, is a ghostly remake of the barrelhouse piano based rock of 'Rivers' from Destroyer's 2008 album, Trouble In Dreams. I do prefer the original version, since the words and phrasing style of it feel forced and awkward in this droning, ambient setting. But at the same time, I've never heard a song like this from Bejar before, and his distinctive vocals and lyrics work shockingly well in said setting. It's novel, sure, but not a novelty.
The same could be said for the EP. Whether Bejar pursues this direction for his next album with Destroyer is impossible to say. I hope he does, for whatever that's worth. Well, whatever does happen, it won't change the fact that Bay Of Pigs is a brilliant, challenging-but-rewarding EP.
5 Poorly Drawn Stars Out Of 5