Destroyer – Girl in a Sling

“I’ve been sifting through these remains for years
Bitter tears, bitter pills
Oh, it sucks when there’s nothing but gold in those hills!”

Over the course of 10 albums, Dan Bejar’s Destroyer – not, as you might think, a metal act, but wordy, arch, Bowie-esque art-pop – has proven himself a highly-distinctive lyricist.

Many Destroyer songs contain, amongst their tumbling torrents of verbosity, standout lines that make you laugh – or at least say, “huh?” – due to their bizarre, playful specificity, often turning a well-worn expression on its ear; or dense allusions to other songs and songwriters (and even recursively back to his own work).

Here’s some of his more memorable one-liners, in reverse chronological order. For a more in-depth description of why he’s so singular, take a look at the intro to this album ranking; to experience his eccentric-yet-romantic words for yourself, pretty much pick any song at random from here.

Up top, “Girl in a Sling”, a slow, orchestral number from his latest, Poison Season.


“Savage Night At The Opera”, from 2011’s Kaputt, reminds us that

“It’s not a war until someone loses an eye”

Destroyer – Savage Night at the Opera

The title track from 2006’s “Destroyer’s Rubies” results in a tie:

“All good things must come to an end /
The bad ones just go on forever.”


“You disrupt the world’s disorder just by virtue of your grace, you know”

Destroyer – Rubies

From 2004’s Your Blues comes this head-scratcher, in “It’s Gonna Take An Airplane”:

“Submarines don’t mind spending their time in the ocean”

Destroyer – It’s Gonna Take An Airplane

From 2001’s Streethawk: A Seduction, “Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Sea of Tears)”; I’m not sure how true this ACTUALLY is, but it’s still a great line:

“No man has ever hung / from the rafters of a second home”

Destroyer – Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Sea of Tears)

Weirdly enough, this song is from 2000’s Thief, not 1998’s City of Daughters, and has a lyric referring to the PMRC-sourced quote that also provided the name for Dan-Bejar-featuring power-pop supergroup The New Pornographers.

It also asks the immortal question,

“What is it about music that lends itself so well /
To business-as-fucking-usual?”

Destroyer – City of Daughters

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Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

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25 thoughts on “One-liners!

    • Well, I understand he is a wine enthusiast.

      I assume the “elf” part is just due to him being Canadian*.

      I’m actually revisiting Streethawk: A Seduction now, and “The Bad Arts” has so many great lines:

      – God damn, your eyes / They just had to be twin prizes waiting for the sun

      – Why did you spend the ’90s cowering?

      – The world woke up one day to proclaim / “Thou shalt not make or take part in bad art”

      It also ends with a coda quoting Joy Division’s “Disorder” (“You’ve got the spirit, don’t lose the feeling”) – supposedly the “hanging” lines from “Farrar, Strauss and Giroux” are also a reference there.

      Ah, and now it’s “The Sublimation Hour”:

      Don’t spend your life conceiving
      That the widows won’t get sick of their grieving
      ‘Til everyone walks out
      Hey, isn’t that what rock ‘n’ roll is all about, princess?
      Express your bloated self, willful and indignant
      In the face of somebody’s lord

      *NOTE: This comment fulfills my daily quota of American random comical misapprehension of our magical northern neighbors.


      • I’ve told this story before, but I used to joke about how disappointed/irate metal fans who accidentally clicked on this guy must be.

        Then *I* got burned in SF, when I thought I was going to see a show by *this* Destroyer, and it turned out to be – a metal band.


              • Whoa, whoa, whoa…Bejar’s voice is definitely unusual, but if you are questioning Neko, we may have to throw down.

                Luckily, as a metal fan, you never have to question to what degree the vocal stylings there are affected. ;-)


                • i mean, i get it. some dudes are into feet or whatever. the world is an oyster filled with gross. etc.

                  but case strikes me as very beige and i can’t for the life of me figure out why she’s so adored. there’s no there there.

                  as a side note, i did not know about the destroyer/new pornographers connection. that explains everything.

                  glyph, i know you smiley’d it but there is a wide range of lousy metal singing/”singing” (depending on genre) that relies too much on that empty shell of “brutality” i wrote something about once. it’s the difference between nonsensical trash like [insert any power metal band you want, they are all awful] and the shrieky, greasy gutterances of coffinworm.


        • Having just seen this Destroyer on Sunday I can only guess you had a much better time than I did. Pretentious lyrics, sung by an Al Stewart sound alike, with the same boring musical arrangement behind every song. The only plus was getting to visit a brand new venue here in Chicago. I’ll certainly be back, but not to see this band.


          • Oof! Harsh, but fair.

            I tend to think the “pretentious” bit gets undercut, just a little, by all the lyrical jokes and jabs at himself; but I can’t deny that I sometimes get a little eye-rolly myself at how…elaborate and obscure he gets with some of them.


            • I find it impossible to take him seriously, starting with the name. Perhaps it is mere projection, on my part, to assume that he doesn’t take himself seriously.

              His stuff with The New Pornographers can seem a bit… over-earnest at times, but I’m not sure how much of that is him, and how much of it is the dynamic between the different songwriters/musicians in that collective. Plus, I generally like the result when he seems more serious with TNP:


              • I was trying to figure out who he reminded me of, lyrically. He’s riffed on Morrissey more than once, and his general Canadian miserablist romanticism can’t help but call Cohen to mind, but both those songwriters are generally much more focused and less-surreal. But when you look at surrealists like Pollard/Barrett etc., Bejar’s not exactly doing that either (Bejar definitely still feels more ‘literary’ than ‘imagistic’, if that makes any sense).

                I don’t know enough about Dylan to say how he compares, but it just hit me that Scott Miller (Game Theory/Loud Family) might be a decent analogue, as far as really densely-dictionary-wordy lyricists (and both have unusual voices and twisty, complicated melodies).

                And like Miller, Bejar is probably limited in how much mass appeal can be found. It’s actually surprising to me that he’s as well-known as he is.


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