Destroyer: Labyrinthitis review – wayward, dance-infused weirdness
Labyrinthitis – an inner ear infection that causes dizziness and disorientation – is a good title for an album that’s dizzyingly, and sometimes pleasingly, weird. The Canadian indie rock veterans set out to make a techno record, with New Order, Cher and Trevor Horn also on their lockdown moodboard. It hasn’t quite worked out as planned, because Destroyer don’t instinctively grasp the simplicity at the heart of all great dance music. So instead we get fussy, endless layering and fragments of good ideas crushed into one another, topped with vocals that wobble from bizarre, mannered cabaret to slam poetry rap.
What saves Labyrinthitis from being insufferable is singer Dan Bejar’s great facility for melody, and the gentle new wave pulse on songs such as All My Pretty Dresses. Eat the Wine, Drink the Bread could fit into a Caribou set, and the frankly bonkers, sprawling June is one of the best things Bejar has ever written. Unfortunately, there’s often this vast emotional chasm in his music, a feeling that nothing ever means anything, until the final two tracks, The States and The Last Song, which prove that he can write a lovely, affecting lyric after all.