September 13, 2005

Plans by Death Cab for Cutie

What a weird, wonderful world we live in. The latest evidence of that – Death Cab for Cutie’s new album Plans is the #4 album in the country. I have loved ‘em for years, but I never thought they would reach such heights of commercial success. Good for them. And good for America consumers.

I was first introduced to the band back when they were touring to support the album We Have the Facts and Are Voting Yes. I saw them at the Mermaid Lounge in New Orleans. Honestly, it wasn’t the greatest show ever, but it was a memorable one. And there was definitely something about Ben Gibbard that I liked. So I bought that album, and my interest in them grew. And as they progressed, my interest continued to grow – by leaps and bounds. And now they are one of my favorite bands (as is another Gibbard project, The Postal Service). Plans is the fifth album of theirs that I have bought (I’ve also got 2 Postal Service discs). I wish I could say it is my favorite. But it’s not. Maybe it will grow on me. Hope it does, and perhaps it will. But until then, I’d judge this to be simply a pretty typical Death Cab product – but still, to me, an average Death Cab for Cutie album is far superior to all but a few other things in music stores at the moment.

There are some really great tracks on this album. It opens with two truly excellent songs, Marching Bands of New York and Soul Meets Body. Some of the other highlights include I Will Follow You Into the Dark, Your Heart Is an Empty Room, Crooked Teeth (which, sort of oddly, reminds me of an Aimee Mann song – I say oddly since I own no Aimee Mann other than the Magnolia soundtrack), and Brothers on a Hotel Bed (which sounds, apart from the lyrics, like it would have fit right in on the band’s gorgeous album Transatlanticism). The album’s misses? Well, I don’t love Summer Skin. And Someday You Will Be Loved features what’s got to be the most irritating chorus the band has ever created.

If the album is a bit of a letdown to me, I think that comes from the fact 1) that Transatlanticism was probably too good – it’s hard for a follow-up to such an exceptional album not be disappointing, 2) that I don’t personally relate to some of the underlying metaphors in the lyrics as much on this album (death is used frequently) in the same way that I did on the last one (which often dwelled on faraway loves) and 3) the lyrics are, in places, just not as impressive as this group has shown it can produce. There are very few bands that can match Death Cab for Cutie when it comes to lyrics, so again, it might simply be that they are simply failing to excel past the high bar they have set for themselves on the basis of the quality of their previous work. On the whole then, you’ll probably note that to the degree this release disappoints me, it’s largely a matter of expectations and words – not music. The music is pretty damn good.

On the whole then, I guess what I would say is that I simply recommend you buy one of the last four Death Cab for Cutie albums. This one’s good. But the three that came before it are strong too.

Posted by armand at September 13, 2005 08:09 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Music


So, the problem is the same as the Yoshimi follows the Soft Bulletin problem? Something great follows something truly amazing, and you are slightly underwhelmed?

Posted by: binky at September 13, 2005 09:24 AM | PERMALINK

Yep - that's basically it. Just about no one can pull off the, Sgt. Peppers follows Revolver thing (not that I'm comparing these albums to those). It's generally good, and is in the more-produced style of the other albums that have followed We Have the Facts. I wouldn't call it "great" necessarily. But it's certainly good, and already some of the songs are really growing on me after just a couple of days. Basically, it's worth buying if you enjoy this kind of music.

Posted by: Armand at September 13, 2005 09:31 AM | PERMALINK

I never heard of them (of course) until "Transatlanticism" appeared in a Six Feet Under episode season before last. Went out and downloaded it right away!

Posted by: jnorvell at September 14, 2005 02:46 AM | PERMALINK
Post a comment

Remember personal info?