I seem to remember reading somewhere prior to the release of Death Cab for Cutie’s latest album, Kintsugi, that it would harken back to their earlier work.
Well, it didn’t. It doesn’t.
I spent weeks playing only their new album while driving. (Remember how you used to do that with new CDs and tapes back in the day?) That’s hours upon hours of those tracks over and over again. Misty is likely quite sick of it. I can say that in no way does Kintsugi sound like an early Death Cab album. Definitely not something about airplanes or their seminal We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes.
Already armed with this knowledge, I decided to test my judgment. Comparing their most recent album(s) to work done over 15 years ago isn’t quite fair. And given just how damn good those early albums are, it wouldn’t be fair to compare any other DCFC work to them. (I’m completely biased. I started listening to Death Cab when We Have the Facts . . . was released. Maybe I just hold it dear to my heart – either way, I believe it’s their best album. Shout out to Leigh – this is your finder’s fee.). So I decided to try comparing Kintsugi to one of their “middle-aged,” if you will, albums. Not too recent, not too old. I wanted to give them a fair shake.
Which album to choose? I decided upon Transatlanticism.
As much as I like “No Room in Frame” and “Black Sun,” there’s not a song on the album that even begins to compete with “Expo ‘86” or “The Sound of Settling” and others.
Don’t take this as me bashing the album. I think it’s eminently listenable (I did it for weeks) and quite good, but it’s inaccurate to say it’s harkening back to their earlier work. I really enjoy the album, and it’s now the soundtrack to an interesting period of my life (see blog posts 2000 through now). Aside from the singles, I love “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive.” It reminds me of my 20s, the changes since then and reasons to move on. “Good Help” makes me think of now.
One clear reason is that Chris Walla didn’t produce this album (his last with the band). He has a definite style and it is definitely missing from Kintsugi.
To truly test my (and others’) judgment that the band had drastically changed over the years, I decided to put all the DCFC albums on random. From 1997 to 2015. It didn’t take long for me to discover that this album – Kintsugi – fit just perfectly within their oeuvre. Among “Army Corps of Architects,” “405,” “Cath,” “Company Calls” (one of my faves), “Amputations” (a great driving song) and “Brothers on a Hotel Bed” (looking at you, Matt), the songs on Kintsugi find their place.
But why the changes?
For the same reason Chris Walla is (sadly) moving on, that I have a (sorta) new career and job, that Grandad died on Sunday and the changes in others’ lives – we grew up. We’re growing up. I feel like I grew up with DCFC, and in a large part, I did. Fifteen years. I even visiting their hometown, Bellingham, Wash., (“The City of Subdued Excitement”) on a visit to see a friend living there.
Certainly they’ve changed. As have I. Maybe it’s throwing off some of the pretense of our 20s.
Indie rock itself no long really exists – it’s all gone electronic. How can we expect – or even want, ultimately – a band to never change? I’m not a fan of all the changes (Walla leaving, side projects distracting, etc.), but they’re natural. It happens to us all. We’ll always have a “Photobooth” of them, though.