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Sept. 12, 2005

Solid "Plans"

by Eve Gleichman, Online Editor-in-Chief
In 1967, the Beatles came out with "Magical Mystery Tour," a film that is still often described as something only a true Beatle fanatic could appreciate. The production is totally over the top, containing flashy scenery and performances which strongly suggest the combination of hallucinogenic substances and boundless imaginations. Among the wacky performances included in the film is a cut from the jazz-rock-comedy group, the "Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band," featuring their parodist, "Death Cab for Cutie." In the song, the group narrates a taxi accident, in the style of honky-tonk, turning an otherwise grim story line into a comedic routine. The song was made even stranger with the Beatles' decision to synchronize the audio with a striptease act by 1960's icon Jan Carson.

It is no wonder why hard core Beatles' fans were shocked at the somewhat obscure song's sudden reemergence into pop culture nearly thirty years later. Suddenly, one of America's favorite TV icons, Seth Cohen, has professed his love for his favorite band, "Death Cab for Cutie" on the widely popular show, "The OC." Now, whether before or after Seth, hundreds of thousands of indie-pop lovers have followed suit, and the name "Death Cab for Cutie" is no longer a distant memory from a trippy movie, but an increasingly popular band.

Lead vocalist of Death Cab, Ben Gibbard, was brave to stamp a name with such an unusual background on a band that produces, well, ordinary music. In truth, Death Cab's first few albums provided a new sound for listeners, serving as an introduction to the indie-pop scene. But with "Plans," the group's latest release, one can't help but wonder if this run-of-the-mill group really does its name justice.

The album is solid; there is plenty of musical diversity and lyrical depth spread out among the 11 cuts. Patterns similar to those of previous release, "Transatlanticism" shine through, and Gibbard experiments with new ways to expand on Death Cab's familiar inoffensive sound. This change in sound is best shown off with "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." The delicate song features Gibbard and his acoustic guitar, during which he proclaims, "If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks/Then I'll follow you into the dark."

Catchier cuts include the album's opener, "Marching Bands of Manhattan," a proclamation of love with a pretty verse melody and full chorus, and "Crooked Teeth," an upbeat song with an especially memorable verse and bridge tune.

"Soul Meets Body" has more electronic elements than other tracks on "Plans," with a layered sound reminiscent of songs recorded by Gibbard's equally popular side band, The Postal Service. Conversely, "What Sarah Said" has a darker sound, beginning in progressions of minor keyed piano chords beneath Gibbard's narrative of anticipating bad news in a hospital waiting room ("And then the nurse comes `round and everyone lift their heads/But I'm thinking of what Sarah said/That love is watching someone die.").

While the lyrical intensity is impressive, "Plans" is sealed with a handful unmemorable cuts too. "Your Heart is an Empty Room," for example, begins well, but becomes repetitive and uninteresting halfway through. Similarly, "Stable Song," the last track on the album, is reminiscent of a biker who has pedaled so slowly that he has lost his balance and fallen over. Any brilliant song-writing elements in the piece are lost in the incredibly sluggish melody, putting an exceptionally disappointing ending to the album.

In terms of the cohesiveness of the album, there is nothing exceedingly bad about the music that Death Cab has produced. Stylistically, the songs are diverse and meaningful, and certainly acceptable by Seth Cohen's standards. It is the lack of pizzazz in "Plans" that nudges at the suggestion that the album may have fallen short of what Gibbard's band name really encompasses.






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  • Allie (View Email) on September 12, 2005 at 7:01 PM
    Good review Eve! I had a lot of the same thoughts about this album. And I had no idea where the band's name came from!
  • btw on September 12, 2005 at 8:04 PM
    The ambivalent content of your review does not agree very well with the mainly positive title.
  • shol on September 15, 2005 at 3:30 PM
    the lead is really confusing. i am confused. it is disorienting, there is too much going on! AAAAAAHHH!
  • 06 on September 23, 2005 at 1:51 AM
    the third paragraph of this review is really contradicting and confusing
  • 06 on September 27, 2005 at 8:42 AM
    i really liked this review. though maybe it's hard to see where you're going with it at first, it's a great angle to use to summarize this album. i thought this album was alright.
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