I was going to say, I never write about
Destroyer, but what a lie—or only the
aboutness is true, because I am always
writing through Destroyer: “as if writing
a Destroyer song” is the poetic mode
that gives me the most pleasure, though
what comes out might only sound like
Bex song, birdsong, foolssong.
I remember the sold-out Webster Hall
show, full band, “Destroyer Orchestra,”
air hazy, big dark cavern smelling of
BC bud. Where did all these people
come from? I thought, realizing the
secret was out. Eyeing the college girls
judgmentally as they swayed to lines
about cocaine and decadence. No,
it’s supposed to be ironic! Why were they
singing along to “New York City just wants
to see you naked—and they will”?
Were they relishing it, as I was, lightly lashed
but in on the joke, the city something we
all orbited around but didn’t dare claim?
Between sets, I bought a pale pink t-shirt
with a black-and-white raccoon on it.
E only ever gets jealous about one thing:
my obsession with Destroyer. I try to pull
the music away from the man: “He’s my
favorite artist. Don’t trivialize it into a
crush! He shows me what art can be”—
and here I pause—”and being a sexy
ruffian madman is only one part of that”
—and here I giggle girlishly—”Putting
sensuality in: isn’t that something
to aspire to? All that cursèd romance!”
In “Poor in Love,” you have the classic
Destroyer formula: glamour against
the backdrop of a crumbling city
that portends the coming apocalypse.
The dream of being scouted or chosen
is quickly deflated: “She took me aside
and said I don’t do this every day. You
got style!” (and then a pause, an ellipsis
on the lyric sheet, and the tambourine
comes in again) “All you’ve got is style”
as a sort of argument against pure
aestheticism, perhaps against even
Kaputt’s own slick surfaces that drew in
so many, that filled the music hall.
Ultimately, as in many Dan songs,
there’s the dream of a purer art—
a pipe dream, an ideal, something
to keep chasing: so I do, too.
“Why’s everybody sing along
when we built this city on ruins?”
Besides the funny reference to
“We Built This City” (on rock and roll)
there’s the seeming impossibility of present joy
against a past of domination, dehumanization.
But then, too, the present need for
pleasure, harmony, accompaniment (everyone’s
singing along) in the face of it. A sort of
pleasure activism, as in adrienne maree brown:
“Pleasure is not one of the spoils of capitalism.
It is what our bodies, our human systems,
are structured for; it is the aliveness and
awakening, the gratitude and humility, the joy
and celebration of being miraculous.”
It’s the music.
In “Poor in Love,” there is an argument for
“okayness”: although poor in love and wealth,
the singer is “okay in everything else there was.”
The fashion talent-scout woman tells him, too:
“You were born okay.”
brown asks us to ask ourselves:
“How much love would feel like enough?
Can you imagine being healed enough?
Happy enough? Connected enough?”
The song’s central claim and refrain,
“I was poor in love,” it’s worth noting, is in
the past tense. As if it’s possible—in adulthood,
or through atonement or reparations—to grow out
of a culture or self of scarcity, of not-enoughness,
of ruination. To leave behind a poverty of feeling.
As if it’s possible to make art and feel okay.