Thursday, August 25, 2005

Death Cab for Cutie - Plans

Album Review
August 25, 2005
(no link)

three bunnyheads out of four

In cooler-than-thou indie-rock circles, Death Cab for Cutie was always sort of, well, square. Singer Ben Gibbard wore his well-crafted pop hooks, like his heart, on his sleeve. So it actually makes sense that these nerdy-looking guys with a goofy name would break out of the rock-snob scene and hit the big time. On major-label debut Plans, the veteran Bellingham, Wash.-based quartet fully unleashes its inner soft-rocker, and neither radio-ready sheen nor too many slow songs can dim Gibbard's sparkling melodies and emotive lyrics. Love is still the 29-year-old songwriter's main subject, but now it's weighed down by mortality. First single "Soul Meets Body" contemplates "the darkness" amid ba-ba choruses and guitarist Chris Walla's ornate production. Sparse acoustic ballad "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" and Walla-penned "Brothers on a Hotel Bed" are equally haunted, the latter relying on the band's new favorite instrument, piano. But Plans sees too much hope in the human condition to get depressing. Expansive opener "Marching Bands of Manhattan" imagines moving an island for love, while "Someday You Will Be Loved" lets a would-be Mrs. Gibbard down surprisingly easy. Even when Gibbard sings that "love is watching someone die," on emergency-room portrait "What Sarah Said", a quiet awe still seeps through. Sneer if you must, but Death Cab's legacy is still being born.

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Press Mentions

"Goes over the top and stays there to very nice effect."
-- David Carr, The New York Times

"I wasn't fully convinced. But I was interested."
-- Rob Walker, The New York Times

" Marc Hogan wrote in Spin..."
-- Maureen Dowd, The New York Times