Release Date: 10.07.03
Record label: Barsuk
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
Put Your Best Simple Dress On
by: bill aicher
Due in great part to his collaboration work as 1/2 of The Postal Service, Ben Gibbard broke out of his relatively unknown status as the voice behind underground emo group, Death Cab for Cutie, and began being recognized by many as one of the greater songwriters of today. It was also due to the surprising success of The Postal Service's Give Up that Death Cab for Cutie found itself an additional audience of listeners eager to hear just what else Ben Gibbard had to say, and what his real band sounded like. Or, at least that was the case with me.
By simple comparisons, Transatlanticism (Death Cab for Cutie's fifth album) is much akin to a single-disc version of The Smashing Pumpkin's grandiose Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. There's the everyman lyrical stature of Gibbard, of course, but there's also a sense of musicianship here that feels like Melon Collie (although the over-the-top guitar riffs are thankfully absent here). Or maybe it's simply because the opening track "The New Year" is one of the most epic, empowering songs since Melon Collie's proper opener, "Tonight, Tonight."
But honestly, Transatlanticism is much more of an indie-rock-bleeding-into-the-mainstream-but-the-lyrics-are-too-deep kind of record. The band is as sonically tight as one could ever hope for, and the piano work (over the sound of railcars) on the album's title track is about as beautifully distant as the lyrics imply.
Because Transatlanticism is really an album about love over distance. Songs like the title track drive this concept home, with lyrics like "And the distance is quite simply much too far for me to row: it seems farther than ever before (oh no)." Likewise with "Title and Registration" (about finding photographs of a time gone by when searching through a glove compartment) - "And all I find are souvenirs from better times before the gleam of your taillights fading East to find yourself a better life."
So where does leave Transatlanticism as a whole? Well as a whole it's a damn fine album. There has been definite care in the arrangement of song order, as each song tends to flow emotionally from one to the next. And true to its form, it ends on an emotionally distant note: "But I know it's too late, and I should have given you a reason to stay."
Maybe he didn't give reason to his lover, but Death Cab for Cutie are becoming masters of giving the listener reason to stick around, and maybe even find out a bit more about who they really are. 15-Jan-2004 9:00 AM