Have We Met is not perfect, but for large swathes, it proves to be the most compelling deep dive yet into the Destroyer mythos. Destroyer is essentially Toronto musician Dan Bejar, who’s been around since the mid-90s developing his inimitable stream-of-consciousness approach to songwriting. Think Highway 61 era, Bob Dylan, with twice the nihilism and quirkier melodies. True to form, Have We Met conjures a mood and invites you to step in. This is Bejar’s world, a stark film noir hell set to music, full of ragged, world-weary characters who seem stuck in an endless loop. Yet it feels self-consciously inward-looking. Destroyer’s world is a mindset, the seedy underbelly of a nihilistic mind rather than any rainy metropolis.
Thankfully Destroyer makes hopelessness sound good. The singles are the highlights. Cue Synthesiser is a depressing stab at the cyclical nature of life, the musings of a man with nowhere left to go. And yet that bassline and careening overdriven guitar is oh-so-inviting. Crimson Tide is one of the most epic Destroyer tracks ever, brimming with beautifully stark imagery about a man trying to make amends but being drawn back into old habits. And It Doesn’t Just Happen is a straight-up arena rock tune, with a massive synth line and the closest thing to a Bejar ‘vocal performance’ on the record.
The rest of the material is generally strong and adds further pieces to this album’s puzzle. The Raven is musically uplifting but lyrically dour, its words deliberately playing against the whimsical mood (“Look at the world around you/ Actually, no, don’t look”). The Television Music Supervisor is an absurdist spoken-word piece, with our mysterious protagonist pondering his next move. Perhaps the music he peddles, “measured in echoes by famous novelist brothers shithead number one and shithead number two,” is one of the things that plague the characters in this record’s world? And University Hill is an affecting piece about two people about to be torn apart by an unknown force. Perhaps they’re lovers and it’s a relationship going south, either way, there’s no escape, “Your fortress of solitude’s no contest when you’re staring at oblivion.”
Unfortunately, the album doesn’t sustain over 40 minutes, mainly because the limited musical palette makes it hard to stay rapt. Bejar’s vocals are more subdued than usual and the effect can be great first time around, but the lack of melodies hurts replay value. The instrumentals, spare and intentionally over-processed, also wear thin over time. By the end of the album that overdriven 80s guitar will have you grinding your teeth. The last two tracks also feel a bit lazy given what’s come before. The Man In Black’s Blues has too few words for a man that revels in them, with a coda that goes on forever. foolssong is also a bit lazy, starting promisingly before losing any semblance of a narrative.
Nevertheless, most of this album is engrossing. Fans will lap it up, and new listeners would do well to check it out if they’re in the market to lose hope in the world, if only for a little while.