Thursday, March 03, 2005


Death Cab For Cutie- The Photo Album

Purchased in London a few years back because my pal/travel companion Kim wasn’t listening to anything else on that trip. The first song on the record is a little slow, drags a bit, but after that it’s all gangbusters.

Death Cab has always reminded me of Jawbreaker. They don’t sound alike at all, but both Blake Schwartzenbach and Ben Gibbard are great lyricists who deal in immediate gripping reactions. After a few listens, you grab the lyric sheet to fill in your mental gaps. Of course, Jawbreaker weren’t all that great musically, which kinda made them a little bit more charming (for me, anyway- I was able to play most of their songs with my minimal knowledge of bar chords and such.) Death Cab has pop chops and deft arrangements to back up the wonderful lyrics on this collection of pop songs.

MIX TAPE: Blacking Out The Friction

Death Cab For Cutie- Transatlanticism

The whole dynamic changes in the course of one record. There are still the great lyrics and hooks, but ‘Transatlanticism’ is drawn out, baroque- it feels more like a record than ‘The Photo Album, ’ which sounded like (forgive me) a collection of snapshots.

The themes dealt with are, as far as I can tell, standard Death Cab fare- loss, distance- but the album sequencing makes everything feel more cohesive than ‘Photo.’ There’s no song about Los Angeles in the middle of everything, f’r example. The previously exhibited killer/killing pop sensibilities remain, but are used in moderation. The added dimensions of augmented instrumentation and additional voices serve to make things feel less fleeting and more drawn out, serving to add to the record’s loose concept (there’s that word again) of love over distance. Aching and gorgeous.

Depeche Mode- Catching Up With….

The first of two greatest hits/retrospective records by the Mode. A lot of it is unintentionally hilarious- the really early stuff (‘Just Can’t Get Enough,’ ‘Dreaming Of Me’) sounds like the backing music for Mario and Luigi jumping over walking mushrooms. Having said that, of course, there are any number of bands playing right now that would kill for the same early sound and chops.

The silly Nintendo music segues into the Depeche Mode that we all know and love, the stuff that induced teenagers to wear all black and smear their makeup. It’s a fun question- were the kids miserable before they found Depeche Mode, their previously untapped musical oasis of empathy, or did the kids become more goth because they were listening to a band whose fans made it okay to brood and be humorless? (I know for me it was a little bit of both, except it was more the Smiths than Depeche Mode.) Whether they was the chicken or the egg, it’s no wonder, in retrospect: “I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors/but I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor/and when I die/I expect to find him laughing.” Awesome! Whatever is going wrong in a teenager’s life can be plugged into the vague framework of victimization that Depeche Mode has established, and then the band can be said to feel the listener’s pain. Very non-specific but deeply personal.


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