Death Cab for Cutie

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Death Cab for Cutie

The Photo Album (Barsuk)

What are your options when you're a sensitive, musical boy from the Pacific Northwest who's not inclined to take the piss out of everything like, say, Pavement, or scream your discontent like Modest Mouse? You form Death Cab for Cutie, named for a song by Sixties vaudevillians the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and then craft delicate, gorgeous couch-rock that turns indie heads from coast to coast and guarantees that every college hipster on the planet turns up to one of your shows. The Photo Album is Death Cab's second full-length, following hot on the heels of last year's We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes. The winsome-boy quartet picks up where it left off, rocking you oh-so-gently with the loping loveliness of "A Movie Script Ending," the moody, piano-driven "Information Travels Faster," and the fuzzy nostalgia of "Coney Island." Driving this Cab is singer/guitarist Ben Gibbard, whose voice crackles with a fragility most twentysomething boys would be loath to cop to, and whose lyrics suggest mature erudition, or at least good therapy. Take, for example, "Styrofoam Plates," a bitter elegy to an alcoholic, absentee father: "You're a disgrace to the concept of family; the priest won't divulge that fact in his homily ... you can deck out a lie in a suit, but I won't buy it." It's a rare talent that can express such emotions so concisely; even more rare is the ability to deliver them in a near-whisper rather than a scream. It's that kind of subtlety that will keep us coming back for more. (Death Cab for Cutie plays Emo's Saturday, Nov. 10.)

***

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