Dan Bejar, better known as the indie-pop act Destroyer, basks in the safety of collaborations. A humble and soft-spoken artist, Bejar was one of the main songwriters for the widely touted New Pornographer release, Mass Romantic. As his contributions to the aforementioned supergroup declined in number, Bejar released several solo pop albums under the Destroyer name. After his most recent full length, Your Blues, received mixed reviews from critics and fans, Bejar used his influence to recruit freak-folk pioneers Frog Eyes for his subsequent tour. With the two indie superpowers traveling and working together, the duo was able to tweak and rework the synthesized songs on Your Blues. As the Crazy Horse to Bejar’s Neil Young, Frog Eyes toyed with six Your Blues tracks increasing their vigor and volume. Notorious Lightning and Other Works is the materialization of that tour and partnership.
Replacing much of the theatrics and trite instrumentation with spastic guitars, Frog Eyes assists Bejar in creating a more energetic and aggressive album than Your Blues. The resonant guitars of each song force Bejar to sing more assertively than in the past. On the title track, “Notorious Lightning,” Bejar screams, “Someone’s got to fall before someone goes free.”
Despite Frog Eyes’s influence, Bejar never completely abandons his former style. On Notorious Lightning’s closer, “Your Blues,” his 50-second vocal opening about an ex-lover is as sincere and delicate as his disposition in the past. When Frog Eyes’ keyboards and near inaudible guitars commence, they only bolster the earnestness of Bejar’s lyrics and voice.
The only track that seems devoid of flair is “New Ways Of Living.” The song structure doesn’t match with the new approach; the grandiose feel of the previous recording seems lost. Bejar’s left-field lyrics can’t make the transition to a more condensed and formulaic structure.
The largest objection that can be made against Notorious Lightning is that it wasn’t recorded earlier. Your Blues contains several great tracks that gain new life with the inclusion of Frog Eyes and the power they bring to the collaboration. This EP is hopefully the beginning of a whole new project for Bejar, one that will carry him out of ambiguity and to the realization of his full potential. Frog Eyes is not Crazy Horse, nor is Destroyer Neil Young, but this album still proves itself to be a fruitful union.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars