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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Death Cab For Cutie

posted by on September 2 at 12:28 PM

2820220181_c783631556.jpgDeath Cab For Cutie by Michael Landry from the Stranger Flickr pool

Maybe someone else here on Line Out will be able to better do justice than I to Death Cab For Cutie’s Bumbershoot-closing headlining set last night, but for me nothing was going to top Superchunk. Still, I figured I’d give the band a chance. There was a time when I was a huge DCFC fan, roughly through the first couple few records. (Also: Postal Service, yes!) But for the last couple records, the band has grown increasingly vanilla, bigger but not necessarily better. They’re still totally proficient, and Ben Gibbard remains a fine singer and a sturdy songwriter; they just haven’t landed a song that’s wowed me for a while (“The New Year” was the last one to come close).

In any case, a half dozen songs in, and the band still wasn’t wowing, although “The New Year” sounded fine in the big, starry stadium, flickering with those little neon flashing trinkets people were throwing around. I was hoping to hear a couple older numbers right up front to get me hooked, but it all seemed like newer stuff. And after those first six songs, when a friend offered a ride home, exhausted from three days of Bumbershoot, I decided to bail. On the walk out, “Company Calls” was echoing out of the stadium, and though I love that song (and most all of We Have the Facts), I wasn’t bummed to be leaving. I’ve seen a lot of great Death Cab shows, last night’s just didn’t seem like it was going to be one of them. I do hope it was for everyone else, though.

Update: Turns out the mere six songs I caught was still more of Death Cab’s set than any of my colleagues here on Line Out managed to take in of last night. So, in the interest of fairness and because no more detailed post is forthcoming, an attempt to further explain the vanilla turn-off that was the first half-dozen songs of Death Cab For Cute:

First, a point of clarification: I suppose “Why’d You Want to Live Here,” the third song they played, is more or less an older song, and one that should resonate mightily with anyone who’s spent, say, 12 hours or more in LA. And it’s a pretty fine Death Cab number—cutting sentiment, steadily driving verses, though with more of an extended sigh than a proper chorus. The sound was okay overall throughout their set, although Death Cab’s lighter moments can just float right away in that giant open-air stadium, especially if you’ve left the front following Superchunk.

“Bixby Canyon Bridge” is a bit of a snooze—if you want Gibbard meditating on Keruoac, a better bet is Styrofoam’s “Couches in Alleys,” which features the DFCF singer. “Crooked Teeth” and “Long Division” provided some small shots of energy, Gibbard swinging his guitar in time while singing his verses, and while the former has a nice enough chorus, the latter’s one-word refrain, while melodically agile, wasn’t much to sing along to. “Grapevine Fires,” which Gibbard introduced by observing, “Sometimes beautiful things do happen,” has some nice turns of phrase—the alarm clock of impending doom, for instance, or the paper cups borrowed from Something About Airplanes—but it was, again, kind of a sleeper. I know Death Cab’s always been more of a mellow band—I wasn’t expecting them to come out and be Cheap Trick or whatever—but for whatever reason (their’s was a fresher sound at the time? less pop-cultural saturation? I’m a bitter old gas-bag?), I just dig Death Cab’s older songs more, and on this final night of the weekend my spent ass either needed more energy or more old gems right out the gate to keep me on my feet.

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Why do bloggers here post about concerts they leave, or concerts they have no desire to see because they don't like the band (anymore)? What's the point?

Was someone really wondering what you were doing last night? Did someone running this blog want content about the DCFC show?

I personally feel that it is bordering on pretentious. Eric Grandy is possibly awesome, but there is not a single person on earth who cares that he left the DCFC show six songs in.

Posted by bellevue & belmont | September 2, 2008 1:33 PM

Lemme guess: Eric's about 20 years old? DCFC was cool when he was an angsty teen (i.e. "the first couple few records") but they're not good anymore.


Posted by A Non Imus | September 2, 2008 1:38 PM

Wah yourself. Like I said, someone else on Line Out (maybe Kirby or Seling) should be posting a more just review about Death Cab any minute now. This post was just meant as kind of a place holder.

It is possible, you know, to like a band's earlier work but not their later work without it merely being a knee-jerk reaction against popularity or a pissing match about who liked them first. I'm stoked as anyone for Death Cab's success, and I think their last few records have been less interesting than their earlier ones.

Posted by Eric Grandy | September 2, 2008 1:43 PM

I sat through 22 freakin' songs Grandy.

I was ready to leave after 6.

Blogging is haaaaaaard.

Posted by Jeff | September 2, 2008 1:53 PM


Posted by Non | September 2, 2008 2:32 PM

I bribed the Fire Marshall as hard as I could, but they'd only shut down Monotonix. Next time, Non, next time...

Posted by Eric Grandy | September 2, 2008 2:39 PM

Eric Grandy: your temporary music critique gig at the stranger has not one iota of the success musicians at large have, and particularly Death Cab for Cutie. You are small, you are a joke, and you are probably alone.

Posted by Jeremiah | September 2, 2008 2:43 PM

postal >> dcfc

death cab is boring and fucking anemic.

so vanilla, tom hanks on family ties would've drank a whole bottle of them.

kids were actually crowdsurfing to that shit?

Posted by lar | September 2, 2008 2:47 PM

I just wish he'd tell us more about the "brunch date" that made him late for Saturday.

Sometimes I want to collect a scrapbook of all the self-gratifying/pretentious comments Grandy makes, but that would almost be as lame as he is.

Posted by zig zag | September 2, 2008 2:49 PM

@7: Really? And here I thought I was as famous and wealthy as Death Cab. Thank you, Jeremiah. Your wholly original elucidation of the difference between rock critic and rock star has really opened my eyes about my place in this world. Again, thank you.

Posted by Eric Grandy | September 2, 2008 2:49 PM

@9: It was with an old friend that I've known since grade school who's spent the last couple years teaching English in Korea. He was back in town because his grandfather is dying. I had the eggs benedict.

Posted by Eric Grandy | September 2, 2008 2:52 PM

Confidential to Grandy haters: After he helped shut down Monotnix and left DCFC early he went right outside and stomped a box of free kittens.


Posted by Jeff | September 2, 2008 2:53 PM

12, I think the point is that no one cares whether he left DCFC or not. Certainly, that's no reason to dislike him. Posting about it here, though, has questionable value.

Sorry that everyone is being a dick to him, though. People here are assholes and I was trying to be more constructive than others here.

Posted by bellevue & belmont | September 2, 2008 3:04 PM


Posted by Jeremiah | September 2, 2008 3:16 PM

Wow, the Death Cab fanboys/girls are out in full force this afternoon. I liked Transatlanticism and Plans, but I never got into any of the old stuff and that new album is a steaming pile of boring. With that, I've seen the band several times since ~2004 and they are one of the more boring bands I can ever remember seeing. I've always felt like leaving 5 songs in, so I'm clearly more hardcore than Eric "Kitten Stomper" Grandy, though not in the kitten-stomping department.

Posted by T | September 2, 2008 3:18 PM

Somebody's been reading too much Hipster Runoff. The set picked up after you left, Eric. Though I guess you still wouldn't have liked it, because it was mostly drawn from Transatlanticism, and apparently you only liked them when they were "pure" and untouched by the major labels (i.e., POOR). I did find it funny that they played their three biggest radio hits all in a row, and tons of people streamed out of the stadium right afterwards. The encore, in particular, was excellent, a perfect treat for fans who stuck loyally to the end.

Posted by kebabs | September 2, 2008 6:08 PM

I have been reading so much Hipster Runoff that actually I used the term "meaningful-core" in the liner notes of a mix cd (which, btw, contained Superchunk but no Death Cab).

But, seriously, see my above comment @3. I could give a shit about your notions of "purity" and the music business; I was never into Of Montreal before their steakhouse commercial, for instance, but I love them now. DCFC just happens to be an act for whom my diminishing interest has coincided (though not necessarily correlated) to increased sales, but it doesn't always work that way.

Posted by Eric Grandy | September 2, 2008 10:39 PM

Overrated post-emo twaddle-core. Step back all y'all!

Posted by Mattydread | September 3, 2008 5:04 PM

i say... with much chopped-log, stinky-bay breathe: who the fuck are all you twats? all of you? i mean, REALLY!

i mean, REALLY, meet me at the cabin tavern!

all your vuh-jay-jays are droopin' sidewalk-style... buck up! crimethinc!

Posted by the air on railroad | September 6, 2008 1:13 AM

i say... with much chopped-log, stinky-bay breathe: who the fuck are all you twats? all of you? i mean, REALLY!

i mean, REALLY, meet me at the cabin tavern!

all your vuh-jay-jays are droopin' sidewalk-style... buck up! crimethinc!

Posted by the air on railroad | September 6, 2008 1:16 AM

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