Dan Bejar's 11th Destroyer LP arrives six months after the New Pornographers released their first album without him (April 2017's Whiteout Conditions). Busy preparing his follow-up to 2015's Poison Season, the songwriter instead turned all attention to Ken. The title doesn't refer to a person, but rather the original title of the Suede classic "The Wild Ones." Bejar didn't offer much in the way of explanation for the choice other than that the 1994 song comes from a time "when music first really came at me like a sickness." Sparer than the epic Poison Season but still recorded with members of his band, if in a more piecemeal manner, Ken takes on a synth-heavy post-punk complexion. Acknowledging a worldview that references places like Berlin, Barcelona, Vancouver, and Rome, the album seems to make oblique allusions to the sociopolitical tensions of the period on tracks like the melancholy opener, "Sky's Grey." Anxious, helicopter-like pulses and claves lead into a cinematic sophisti-pop that unleashes midway through the song. Its lyrics include remarks like "Bombs in the city/Plays in the sticks" and "I've been working on the new Oliver Twist." He presents a more Bowie-like rock on "In the Morning" and an ominous, pulsing synth pop on "A Light Travels Down the Catwalk." In true Bejar fashion, "I can't pay for this, all I've got is money" opens "Sometimes in the World." It dispenses cautionary maxims through passages of heavy guitar distortion and sleeker moments of acoustic guitar and synths. Taken together, his typical existential outlook combined with a heavier presence of New Order-like industrial timbres make this a somewhat darker album, but still delightfully Destroyer.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson