Thursday, January 3, 2013

Reconsidering Trouble In Dreams

"The message from the critical reception of Dreams was quite clear: we will not be listening to you any further. Of course some tension is created. Cosmonaut in a bread line, et cetera."---'Grief Point' off the Archer On The Beach/Grief Point EP

"I was on the outs for awhile but now things are alright."---'Blue Flower, Blue Flame' off the Trouble In Dreams album

Dan Bejar went through a period of creative turmoil about the time between the release of Trouble In Dreams and before he released Kaputt, whereupon he came back to us, creatively and otherwise. Following the difficult recording of Trouble In Dreams, he seemed to doubt music altogether, as on the above quoted EP he declares "I have lost interest in music. It is horrible." It could be I am misreading or misinterpreting some lyrics and interview comments from this era, but I don't think so.

Anyway, you may recall that I reviewed this album a few years ago. I still think that review is well written but Trouble In Dreams has been one of those albums that has persisted and grown with me since said writing...and I've been meaning to make it a regular thing for my blog where I go back to things I've written about before...and I've been meaning to start posting on this blog again after a long absence.

So here we are.

I've indeed grown to love Trouble In Dreams since 2008, though this is largely because it's since been contextualized by Dan Bejar's subsequent work with Destroyer and his other projects. It's perfectly acceptable to me now that this record isn't so much a follow-up or progression from Destroyer's Rubies as it is Dan Bejar's version of a relaxed, underrated, not-quite-triumph Destroyer album, kind of like his version of Bob Dylan's New Morning. Like that record, there's some definite career highlights and hidden gems ('Plaza Trinidad', 'The State'), but there's also some failed songwriting experiments (the overlong, unsatisfying 'My Favorite Year') and lazy bunts to pad out the runtime ('Blue Flower, Blue Flame' and 'Libby's First Sunrise'). More importantly, though, Trouble In Dreams didn't turn out to be the troubling (pun unintended) begin of a slide into laziness and mediocrity which my old review vaguely predicts. So why my change in opinion? Well, it's just that sometimes laziness and mediocrity are the product of a relaxed artist at the height of his powers turning in work that doesn't sound as inventive, committed, and fresh as it used to.


Just as Dylan made many albums better than New Morning, Dan Bejar has done better work than Trouble In Dreams many times over. Yet there remains a ragged appeal to both records partially because they aren't as ubiquitous as other works by the artists. 'Like A Rolling Stone' is still a groundbreaking song, but it's more enjoyable to hear 'One More Weekend' in some ways because you don't have it memorized or forced upon you by classic rock radio. Likewise I suspect the apocalyptic epic 'Shooting Rockets (From The Desk Of Night's Ape)' will be a novel, experimental thrill for Destroyer fans well versed in the 'European Oils'- and 'Kaputt'-style better known, accessible tracks he's done over the years. But I digress. Trouble In Dreams remains one of Destroyer's lesser works and I still wouldn't rewrite history to put it on my list of best albums of 2008, but there is something to be said for albums that stick with you and grow on you, and this one did.

On a side note, yes: Whiskey Pie is officially back from the wilderness.

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