Being part of a supergroup probably has its ups and downs. I don’t know because I’ve never been a part of a group, much less a `supergroup.’ You have to worry about equal time, trying to either outshine the others or to avoid it, and whether or not the `supergroup’ will become bigger than you, the solo artist. Each one of the New Pornographers had a stunning solo album last year. Neko Case’s live album, The Tigers Have Spoken may have disappointed some waiting a long time for another studio effort, but pleased most of her fans. Dan Bejar’s alias Destroyer came out with the stunning Bowie-esque and grandiose Your Blues only to be kicked out of the spotlight by A.C. Newman and his brilliant pop masterpiece, The Slow Wonder. I felt bad for him. I truly did.
Despite the fact that I really, really like The Slow Wonder, Dan Bejar / Destroyer is my favorite NP. His Bowie-meets-Gordon Gano voice mixed with such elegant almost orchestral keyboard work made his last album one of my favorites for the year, yet often overlooked. I sincerely hope that these factors were not taken into account when coming up with his latest EP, Notorious Lightning and Other Works. According to his press release, he wanted to rework the songs for live shows as he hauled the Victoria band Frog Eyes to be his backers. The extremely talented Carey Mercer and his band of amphibian oculars helped Bejar re-imagine his best songs from the album, made them a little more rockin’, and then recorded the new versions for the EP.
It’s hard for me to distance myself enough to have an honest detached response to this record. After all, why rework an album that I already loved? I am reminded of Frank Black redoing Pixies classics for his Frank Black Francis double album. For those who love and revere the Pixies, it was a train wreck. But I suppose there are far less people out there who `got’ Your Blues. And truly, it’s not nearly as bad as Frank Black’s mess. In fact, it’s not even bad. Hang on, on second thought, I actually really liked it! Frog Eyes and Bejar join together to take six of the best album tracks and make them altogether new. They still retain Bejar’s distinctive voice and keyboard and then add in layers of instrumentation, specifically Mercer’s jangly and deft guitar and Melanie Campbell’s superb drumming.
There is only one song that I truly prefer the original version as opposed to liking each on their own separate merits, and that is “Your Blues.” The original is so haunting and spare that I found it difficult to get over the added layers. Although I really enjoy both `bands’ that joined together to release this EP, I can admit that both can be acquired tastes for most. Frog Eyes’ The Folded Palm and Destroyer’s Your Blues might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The former can be loud and abrasive, while the latter can be minimal and over the top in its flamboyance. But together they seem to mesh very well, falling somewhere between the two, mixing their best qualities as opposed to their most glaring shortfalls, and probably made for some great live shows. Hearing this EP makes me sorry I missed it. If you saw my Frank Black review you’d see that I’m not a big fan of remaking something that was already great, but in this case, the new versions are fresh and welcome and do not detract from the greatness of the originals. And thankfully, they didn’t call the band Frog Destroyer. That would’ve just been weird.
Destroyer- Your Blues
Frog Eyes- The Folded Palm
The Walkmen- Bows and Arrows