Destroyer’s “Sky’s Grey” Is an Appropriately Oblique Return for Dan Bejar
“Sky’s Grey,” the first dispatch from Destroyer since 2015, opens with the sound of a chintzy old drum machine with its tempo knob turned all the way to the right and then some, skittering along far faster than any human could muster. If you thought for a moment that Bejar might finally be embracing frenzied blast beats to match the death metal-ready name of his long-running songwriting project, the joke is on you. Soon, we hear stately piano chords, operating at a fraction of the speed of the rhythm track, and the hyperkinetic opening begins to evoke something like stasis. It’s as if the mechanical drummer is caught in a Parkinsonian loop, constantly moving but never actually getting anywhere. “Bombs in the city,” Bejar repeats like a playground chant. “Plays in the sticks.”
This stilted stillness persists for nearly half the song’s four-minute length. Then, as if from nowhere, a fat synth bass line worthy of the Human League and a drum fill played by an actual human arrive to tear “Sky’s Grey” in two. “Should have seen it coming,” Bejar muses, perhaps about the song itself, which emerges as a soft and winsome ballad, like a Kaputt album track with all the funky rhythms sedated and cocaine residue dusted off. From there, he tosses off a few of the sort of exquisitely translucent lines that earned him his own beloved parody Twitter account. “Come one, come all, dear young revolutionary capitalists! The groom’s in the gutter and the bride just pissed herself!” (The exclamation points are included in the lyric video, in case you had any doubts about the narrator’s fervor.)
What does it all mean? It will take longer than the few hours we’ve had since the release of “Sky’s Grey” to figure that out. Bejar is a uniquely beguiling songwriter: personal but not confessional, political but not propagandistic, psychedelic but not a dope about it. In the last eight months, we’ve seen a lot of art that attempts to make sense of our current global quagmire. On “Sky’s Grey,” as ever, Bejar is the kind of artist who likes to probe rather than proselytize, to pose questions rather than provide their answers.