Death Cab for Cutie
eath Cab for Cutie highlight the indie community’s insecurities so glaringly that I was downright shocked when they weren’t even mentioned in either of Stylus’s The Problem With Indie essays. They’re the band we all used to like, but then, you know, we got into other stuff like Boredoms and Wu-Tang. It’s not Death Cab’s fault that they’ve become the frequent punching bag of hipper-than-thou hipsters. People inevitably change from the ages of fifteen to eighteen, and Ben Gibbard and Co. have for the most part stayed right where they started, crafting catchy, open-book songs and albums whose sound is ripe for criticism. Yet that’s never deterred them from veering too far away from who they are as a band.
Then again, they are at least partially to blame for all the fire they’ve come under in recent years, namely for allowing Gibbard to write the sort of lyrics that have bull’s-eyes painted at the end of every line. Plans is no different in that regard; listeners should know what they’re getting at this point. The opener, “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” begins the album on a semi-epic note, just as “The New Year” did for Transatlanticism. The intensity builds slowly throughout, as the lines “Sorrow drips through your heart like a pinhole / Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound / But while you debate half-empty or half-full / It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown” are repeated ad nauseam.
The lyrics of “Marching Bands of Manhattan” are by no means surprising. Plans is filled with contrasting poetic highs and lows. “What Sarah Said” manages to fit some of both within the constraint of one song. The first verse is filled with vivid, clever imagery of a hospital waiting room: “Amongst the vending machines and year old magazines / In a place where we only say goodbye.” But by the end the song has become literal to the point of stating the obvious: “There’s no comfort in the waiting room, just nervous paces bracing for bad news.” And Gibbard is at his cringe-worthiest on “Someday You Will Be Loved,” with apologetic, second-person lyrics sung directly to the high school senior left waiting in the living room for the prom date that never showed up in all of us.
Everywhere else on Plans, Death Cab have matured noticeably. They no longer rely as heavily on infectious choruses or guitar lines to make or break their songs—they tell their story and move on. Because of this, the album moves swiftly from track to track; it’s an easy and mostly enjoyable listen. If you don’t like the bouncy “Soul Meets Body,” a quieter, acoustic song like “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” is always waiting just around the corner.
People who like Death Cab will like Plans. They are a band that’s consistent to a fault. The very elements that separate them from every other run-of-the-mill indie band are exactly what make them such an easy target. They don’t appear ready to change any time soon, and if people can’t handle that then they should move on to something else. Like, say, the Postal Service.
Reviewed by: Ross McGowan
Reviewed on: 2005-09-06