The first time I heart “Chinatown,” off of Kaputt, I was ashamed at how much I enjoyed it. The opening track is smooth, with a steady beat and a swooning sax that make you think of an elevator or hotel lobby. It’s hardly what the tight-jeaned teen or even the blazer-touting middle-ager wants to love. But you have to. It’s catchy as hell.
It gets worse. “Blue Eyes” brings in some guitar work that feels so new age and delicate that I whisper the words out loud rather than sing. The light-rock atmosphere continues for the duration of the 9-track record– spanning desire, politics, and ambitions– and damned if frontman Dan Bejar doesn’t make you love it. And he doesn’t make excuses– his poppier “Savage Night at the Opera” says “Yes, I’m familiar with your scene/ Some would say shockingly uptight… I heard your record, it’s alright.”
Kaputt has beautiful imagery in the lyrics and soundscapes. Some songs stay within the pop prescription of 2-4 minutes, but the capstone, “Bay of Pigs,” takes the listener on an 11-minute journey of Alan Parsons inspiration mixed with sensible pop and disdain, “Please remove your spurs/ Come to think of it, remove your antlers/ Haven’t seen you for ages/ I still fly into rages at the mention of your name.” Kaputt does what most music is afraid to do these days– it challenges you to like it. It’s the first album in a long time that I walked away from not knowing how I felt about it. But isn’t that uncertainty affecting enough? How can you not like something that makes you feel like that?