Death Cab are indie survivors. They hit it big in the dying days of physical media, and their success is a quirk of the indie mores prevalent in the 2000s. It’s hard to imagine a band this PR averse and peaceable battling their way to the fore of today’s scene. Yet they still command a crowd, and their latest Thank You For Today was imbued with the bittersweet charm they are known and loved for.
No one band inhabits the feel of autumn quite like Ben Gibbard’s, and their warm and melancholic tone is exactly what a cold January evening demands. Opening with the woozy ‘I Dreamt We Spoke’, it isn’t Gibbard’s singing which signals that this is definitely Death Cab we are hearing, but the honeyed guitar lick. These smooth, chirpy and capo-friendly melodies are absolutely essential.
Gibbard’s singing has an effortless and adolescent quality on record. However his constant motion onstage – call it personal style of poor mic technique – produces a static hiss around plosive p’s and b’s. It isn’t a big deal, but it does strip away some of the lacquer of boy next door charm.
There are some songs that Death Cab simply have to play, no questions asked: ‘What Sarah Said’, ‘Crooked Teeth’, ‘Soul Meets Body’ – and that’s just from one album. ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’ is still an absolute monster, a sprawling spaced-out odyssey that sees the Bellingham boys ride off on the autobahn of Krautrock. ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ is the oft-quoted tearjerker, but ‘Transatlanticism’ is their best song. If you have something to say about that I don’t even wan’t to hear it.
The new material sounds fresh, and that’s lucky, because there’s a lot of it. ‘Summer Years’ feels a little compressed on record but really pops here, probably due to MVP drummer Jason McCerr, who hammers the beat into life (his playing on ‘Movie Script Ending’ later that night is sublime). ‘Autumn Love’ sounds like a setting October sun, while the absolutely gorgeous ’60 & Punk’ is the best of the new material. Though Gibbard’s decision eschewing piano to sing solo with keys player Zac Rae seems like a missed opportunity.
Death Cab don’t do thrills and spills but what they do, relationship tunes dripping in a warm melancholia, they do exceptionally well. Sheer indie splendour.
Read our review of Thank You For Today here.