Wednesday, May 12
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A few hours before taking the stage at Showbox SoDo with his band, Death Cab for Cutie, frontman Ben Gibbard sat backstage in his trademark snap-button shirt and three-day shadow, explaining how the band tried to make their seventh record, Codes and Keys (May 31), neither a departure from their past nor a carbon copy.
"The more records we make, we're very conscious of trying to . . . do things differently enough that we're not just repeating some things that we did verbatim in the past, but that we're also trying to not steer so far out in a left-turn direction that we're losing people because they don't recognize the band anymore," Gibbard said. "It's a delicate balance. I think that for any band that has put out as many records as we have, naturally there are going to be people who gravitate to a particular era of the band because that's just their favorite."
Dedicated fans--and certainly the perfectionists onstage--would surely disagree, but the DCFC changes from era to era have not been in broad strokes. The meticulous indie pop that broke the band into mainstream consciousness with 2003s Transatlanticism, remains a calling card for the band. What's differentiated each record--or era--hasn't been sonic experimentation or reinvention, but the songwriting. And while Codes and Keys is very much a Death Cab record, there does not appear to be a batch of songs that pop the way DCFC bright spots have in the past: the one-two punch of "Bixby Canyon Bridge"/"I Will Possess Your Heart" on 2008's Narrow Stairs, overt singles like "Soul Meets Body" on 2005's Plans, or last night's incendiary show-opener, "New Year," from Transatlanticism.
Check out more pictures from last night's Death Cab for Cutie show.
At Wednesday's tour warm-up--a last-minute benefit for the Seattle Public Schools Lunch Program--new installments to the DCFC apparatus such as "You Are a Tourist" and "Some Boys" fit in neatly aside the career-spanning set. But they didn't excite the way then-new single "I Will Possess Your Heart" did at 2008's practice at Bremerton's Admiral Theater.
It's not that the Codes and Keys era is going to be a forgettable affair, but it's not likely to be the one fans pine for after album 11.
Overheard in the Crowd: "It's the middle of May!" said a flabbergasted Brit, waiting outside in the cold before the show.
Overheard on Stage: "Here's a song that's kind of a hard pill for me to swallow," said Gibbard--now a Los Angeles resident--before launching into "Why You'd Want to Live Here" with the lyric "I'm in Los Angeles today/It smells like an airport runway."
BTW: I made something of a bet with a few friends before the show that a person could run across the street to Hooverville--Seattle's best bar--get a beer, a handful of peanuts, and toss a few darts in the time it takes DCFC to perform the epic, "I Will Possess Your Heart." I was right. But due to a rookie mistake, I arrived back in the room 30 seconds into "I Will Follow You Into the Dark."
Set List (ht to SetList.fm):
The New Year
Cath . . .
Codes and Keys
I Will Possess Your Heart
I Will Follow You Into the Dark
You Are a Tourist
Underneath the Sycamore
Meet Me on the Equinox
Doors Unlocked and Open
Why You'd Want to Live Here
Soul Meets Body
The Sound of Settling
Title and Registration
A Movie Script Ending