Death Cab for Cutie
Thurs Nov 20
Somewhere in the middle of Death Cab for Cutie's epic "Transatlanticism," from their latest album of the same name, it hits you that songwriter/singer Ben Gibbard is a serious romantic. And when I mean romantic, I mean in that super over-the-top Cyrano/Wordsworth/Say Anything kind of way. There are no Hallmark love songs, R.Kelly sex metaphor ballads, or any tired variations thereof. The guy is serious about being in love, and frankly, it's a bit alarming. I mean, how can anyone be that forthcoming about finding love, without coming off creepy, or at least being somewhat jaded? Gibbard avoids being either, as the song continually builds from a mantra of "I need you so much closer," to the miasmatic chorus, a mass of guitars and vocals that plead, "So come on!" over and over again. Eventually, you, the listener, are so convinced of Gibbard's reputable intentions that you realize you'd probably do anything for the guy.
As a band--rounded out by producer/ guitarist Chris Walla, bassist Nick Harmer and new-guy drummer Jason McGerr--Death Cab for Cutie is an indierock anomaly. A highly successful band that has no ex-member tags, no huge label backing, no industry ties, no coattails to ride, and despite all these things the past few years has seen Death Cab's popularity skyrocket based on their precise recordings and tireless work ethic. It doesn't hurt that Walla has become an A-List record producer (working for bands like Hot Hot Heat and Stratford 4), and Gibbard's glitch-pop side-project The Postal Service became one of the biggest indie releases this past year.
Transatlanticism, the band's latest and best album, is a loosely based concept recording, with all the songs covering the topic of long-distance love affairs. Gibbard's writing approaches the songs as if each was a separate means to a cohesive end, showing distance as a struggle to overcome, or a blessing to cherish. He comes to the understanding that all cross-country relationships either surpass or are destroyed by the distance.
While sincerity is not a product to be sold, packaged neatly in emo records, or marketed as genre in itself--it's his genuineness that sells the songs on Transatlanticism. It's the same thing that separates the Elliott Smiths from the Dashboard Confessionals--a combination of real-life experience, legitimacy, and a modest approach to work. Death Cab isn't trying to sell you anything; because of that, you want to be more involved with the band than ever.