Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie

Transatlanticism

Death Cab for Cutie

2003

Barsuk Records

Ok so before I start, let’s get all the nonsense out of the way that is sure to come from reviewing a Death Cab album… Death Cab was better before they were popular and sold out, blah blah, indie cred, blah blah, I eat dicks.  Okay, so now I’m going to start this.  Death Cab for Cutie is weird for me, because I generally like everything a band does, or nothing they do.  Death Cab breaks that mold.  There’s some stuff I love (Photo Album, first half of Plans), and some stuff I hate (end of Plans, probably some other stuff I can’t think of right now).  But as far as this album, Transatlanticism, goes, I like just about all of it.  I like Ben Gibbard, and The Postal Service was a great collaboration with Jimmy from Dntel.

So let’s kick things off; we start with “The New Year”.  After a boring, slow intro, we get some damn music.  Ben Gibbard chimes in with his standard high pitched vocals that sound like he was kicked in the nads (yes I like the sound of it).  We have here a song about going through a supposedly huge change, getting prepared for it, having a huge celebration, but then realizing that everything is pretty much the same.  Everyone has gone through this sometime.  This is a really good song to kick off the album with.  It has a good mood to it, despite having seemingly depressing lyrics.  Oh and it feels much shorter than it is.

So we’re very much slowed down, and the music is even lower on “Lightness”.  Oh wait, no, not all of it.  The vocals are as they always are, this is Death Cab, how could I forget? (I know it seems like I hate his voice, but I really don’t, I swear)  There’s some really cool figurative language going on here, and the lyrics are really well-written.  Oh and the line at the start about looking through a tear in the girl’s dress is so sneakily dirty.  “Lightness” seems like a song I wouldn’t like, but strangely I do.  Maybe because it feels short for such a slow song, or maybe it’s because there’s so many subtleties to notice.  Either way, it’s a good song.

“Title and Registration” is definitely up there for best track on the album.  Ironic that it’s got such depressing lyrics.  We start off with Ben challenging everyone to change terminology, then gets really depressing.  Damn it’s so depressing, but such a good song.  We continue with the semantic argument, and the fading of love to the point where both people just about forget it ever happened.  Jesus, that’s really something that could be a tear jerker.  How can such a depressing song be so good, you might be wondering.  Just listen, because it is.

“Expo ’86” is thankfully more upbeat, and again an awesome track.  Some of the wording here is like Yoda:  confusing, but still technically making sense.  Anyway the song is about being used to things going wrong.  He has something good going on, but is just waiting for something to go wrong, because it always does.  It’s a pretty crappy way to live your life.  Damnit, Death Cab did it again; they took depressing lyrics, put them over good music and tricked me.  Maybe that’s why I really like them.

“The Sound of Settling” is my favorite song on the album, possibly my favorite Death Cab song overall.  This song really just kicks ass, and I wish they did more songs like this.  I think this was a single from this album too, but whatever, I don’t care.  The verses are so well written, the chorus repetitive but still great, the drums catchy, and the guitar riff simple and inviting.  I could write more on this song, but I’ll let you listen for yourself.  Honestly, it’s only two minutes and twelve seconds.  You can spare that for how awesome a song this is.

“Tiny Vessels”… yeah, we’re back to slow, depressing stuff here.  We have a song about being with a beautiful girl, wanting to love her, but you just can’t.  You want her to be ‘the one’, but something just makes you not love her.  You even tell her you love her, but you don’t believe the words you’re saying.  When she asks if something is wrong, you can’t bring yourself to tell her.  Oh yeah, the song is about a summer fling, which kinda makes sense.  The chorus does pick up, thankfully, which makes the song better.   All in all, it’s a good song, and the next song makes it seem even better.

No that was not a compliment to this track… “Transatlanticism” the album’s title track is just not a good song.  To be frank, I can’t stand to listen to 8 slow, boring minutes of this.  So it’s about being apart from the one you love, being so far apart that you simply cannot go to them.  You need them so much closer, but you just can’t have it that way.  The second half of the song is a long, slow crescendo with a moderately interesting peak.  By the end of the song, I’m checking my pulse to make sure I’m still alive after going through what seems like an eternity.

“Passenger Seat” continues the slow, boring trend, but is a better track.  For one, it’s because it is much shorter.  Second, it has more going on.  Also, it has no anticlimactic crescendo.  There really isn’t much to say about this song, except that is just kinda seems like an extended intro for the next track…

“Death of an Interior Decorator” finally brings back some lively music and interesting lyrics.  The song is about a woman losing her looks and her life after having kids, then we go through different times in her life.  There’s some weird comparisons going on here that confuse me.  First of all, how the hell can walking into a room where a bride tripped and broke a vase feel like falling in love again?  Secondly… well I guess that’s the only one, but I’m puzzled.  Still, this is a very good track, and a drastic improvement over the previous two.

“We Looked Like Giants” is right up there, just under” The Sound of Settling” for best track on the album.  This really feels like everyone in the band was in tune with each other, and they pieced togethers’ impeccable performances into one great track.  I love the imagery that Gibbard can create with the lyrics here.  “We’d learn how our bodies worked” always makes me giggle a little bit (yeah I’m a little immature).  It seems to me that the song is about having a purely physical relationship with someone, not realizing you were in love, losing them, and they comparing everyone else in your life with that one person.  Yeah, that sounds about right.  The chorus here really picks up, and makes this song even better.  The slow, mellow interlude is a huge change of pace, but I like it.  It almost sets a mood to reflect on what is going on in the song before it slowly fades out at the end.

I didn’t even realize I was at the end of the album when I was listening because it had been a while since I heard this album, but here we are, “A Lack of Color”.  It picks up right from the ending of “We Looked Like Giants” and uses some cool white noise and acoustic guitar in conjunction with Gibbard’s soft vocals.  A strong finish to the album, which is more than I can say for Plans (Yes I think that album should have ended 3 tracks early, but that’s another review for another time).

So there’s Transatlanticism from Death Cab for Cutie.  It’s a pretty straightforward album, definitely worth a listen if you’re a fan.  If you are unsure, give it a shot, but you probably will still be unsure after it’s over, honestly.  This album doesn’t set any kind of precedent for Death Cab, and doesn’t really have any radical changes to their style.  I have just noticed one thing, and it’s this:  this album really leaves me unfulfilled at the end.  I feel as if there’s something missing, like they cut a track from the end.  Maybe it’s just me,  but I feel like there should be more.  Either way, I’ve just got one more thing… Does Ben Gibbard take kicks to the nads before every concert or recording session? Seriously…

Buy This Album

Last.fm Page

Official Site

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