To support his most recent album 'Your Blues,' the man behind Destroyer (Dan Bejar) enlisted fellow Vancouver group Frog Eyes as his backing band. This was a surprising choice because 'Your Blues' is exceptionally understated and quiet. Bejar had decided to experiment with his latest album, and recorded a large portion of the tracks using MIDI. For all of its awkward instrumentation and tonal vibes, 'Your Blues' turned out to be a masterpiece. The songs are great, the instrumentation is enjoyable and never gets in the way, and the lyrics are brilliant (as always). So, where the album used fake strings, canned drums and lame digital keyboard sounds, Frog Eyes' organic and frantic caterwauling would stomp and clamor when the music was translated to the stage.
This combination worked so well for Bejar, that he decided to record some of the reworked versions of songs from 'Your Blues,' with the Frog Eyes arrangements. Hence, the 'Notorious Lightning and Other Works' EP. And, against all logic, I find it disappointing. Frog Eyes are certainly in charge here, and as great as they are, this could have turned out better. For example, the album version of 'Notorious Lightning' slowly coils, building tension and waiting patiently before bursting for the final section where Bejar repeats "Someone's got to fall before someone goes free." However, for this EP, a quick burst of energy in the first verse dissapates all the tension, and when the afforementioned section rolls around, the band splits it in half, calmly (lazily?) playing through half of it before randomly bursting into a noisy, fast paced squall, complete with Carey's signature crazed warbling hazily mixed in the distant background.
But, not all of the tracks are a step down. "New Ways of Living" is one of the more successful reinterpretations, as it's transformed from a bizarre, orchestrated song into a manic and quick song bursting with energy. Mercer's guitar parts feel confident and thought out. Similarly, "An Actor's Revenge" is given a huge energy boost. The horn part is borrowed from the original, making it a fairly literal translation. The first half of "Your Blues" is still acappella, and the second is pretty simple (drums, organ and acoustic guitar), which works well.
Now, while I have just gone into the differences between the album and the EP, I do feel it important to say that I don't think the way to approach this EP is to compare the two. They are reinterpretations, different ways of looking at the songs and utterly different in purpose. So, while the EP may not have the laser precision of the album versions, they do have an entirely new energy and focus.
I do prefer 'Your Blues,' but this EP is exciting, interesting and so much fun to hear. I wish more bands would completely reinvent their songs like this. However, anyone expecting a legitimate followup to 'Your Blues' with this EP will be sorely disappointed. This is a fun and loose EP, not a big statement. 8/10 -- Dick Baldwin (25 May, 2005)