death cab for cutie : narrow stairs
amidst all discussion of major label sell-outs and commercial radio play, it's been a little difficult lately reconciling my feelings about death cab for cutie. the prospect of sharing this band from my beloved past with a bunch of fairweather fans who have heard the latest single on kroq made the thought of seeing death cab live highly unappealing. and the first single, "i will possess your heart", seemed at first to be an exercise in annoyance highlighting the overly histrionic ways of bassist nick harmer. but then i heard the rest of narrow stairs, and it was then that i realized that, regardless of their ever-increasing popularity, this is a band that is still worth believing in. and that excess snobbery could actually be worse than being a fairweather fan if it results in dismissing this one simply because it comes from a major label.
from the opening salvo of "bixby canyon bridge" to the closing surrender of "the ice is getting thinner", narrow stairs marks a band that is still as vital and creative as they have always been. ben gibbard's lyrical content remains an outstanding facet of the band's import, somehow making such cliched themes as sleeping alone ("your new twin sized bed") and the sound of settling ("cath...") seem fresh and exciting. the production value of chris walla gives the album a darker, more foreboding aesthetic. and yes, even the ominous, driving bass line in "i will protect your heart" turns out to fit well within the band's creepy, stalker side. but without a doubt, the standout track for me is "bixby canyon bridge", gibbard's discourse on the struggle of seeking and recovering a muse that cannot be sought or procured. the band let loose nearly two minutes of aggression and frustration that threaten to fracture the song completely, only to regroup in a place where the listener realizes that the muse was there all along, and yielding one of the better opening tracks in recent memory.
death cab for cutie : "bixby canyon bridge"
from the lp narrow stairs (atlantic, 2008)