, ,

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE & The Postal Service

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE & The Postal Service

Play the Classics and Stir the Feels,

says Josh Jackson in Paste on-line, reminding Norman Warwick of some great music

Fans at a Death Cab for Cutie show don’t always know what to do with their hands. As the band played through their seminal album, Transatlanticism at the Ameris Bank Amphitheater (shown on cover) just north of Atlanta recently, the audience seemed to be divided into thirds—some holding onto the chair in front of them, some with arms crossed and some with hands in pockets. I belonged to that latter group.

Death Cab For Cutie music can be found on Spotify and still in all good music stores.

That doesn’t mean we weren’t having a great time. Fortunately, almost no one was using their hands to hold phones in the air. And I was thrilled by the chance to get to hear the band—missing founding guitarist Chris Walla, but not missing a single faithful note—play an album I listened to more than any other during the latter half of 2003. I’m certain I wasn’t the only one transported to a very specific time and place in my life, and the venue actually got louder whenever a song ended and the audience roared their approval. It’s just that indie rock in those first years of the new millennium was very un-danceable. Ben Gibbard (right) and company hardly moved on stage, and the crowd followed suit, even during the relative bop of “Sound of Settling.” At indie rock shows in 2003, we didn’t sit and we didn’t dance. We stood nearly motionless and cheered politely between songs.

But if my body was still, my mind was racing during songs like “The New Year,” “Title and Registration” and “Passenger Seat.” This was the music of every late-night drive at a time when we were just getting Paste off the ground. I was older than the typical Death Cab for Cutie fan at 31, a father of young kids and husband to a wife who was getting tired of my absence. I’d poured so much of my energy—and increasingly my identity—into this new venture, and as much as I was basking in the response it had gotten, I was starting to sense that more important things were slipping away. When the band played the title track, and Gibbard began pleading, over and over, “I need you so much closer,” I was reminded again, by one of rock’s truest romantics, just who in my life has brought me the most joy, and felt immense gratitude. Music doesn’t have to make you dance to make you feel, and Death Cab had us all on our feet.

But the state of indie rock in 2003 also explains the unexpected success of The Postal Service’s Give Up when it came out seven months before Transatlanticism. While the alternative music of my childhood was laden with synths and beats, ’90s alt-rock ran the other way. Millennial indie kids needed the chocolate of dance music in their rock ‘n’ roll peanut butter, and that’s what Ben Gibbard, Jimmy Tamborello and Jenny Lewis so gloriously provided. And it’s exactly what my fellow attendees and I needed after the quiet beauty of Transatlanticism.

As The Postal Service (left) took the stage, hands that had been holding onto chairs suddenly were tapping along with Tamborello’s beats. Crossed arms unfolded into swaying ones. And if hands remained in pockets, the legs attached to those pockets were moving. To call it dancing might be a stretch, but in 2003, these were important baby steps.

Gibbard hardly spoke a dozen sentences from the stage, to give us the basic facts of his bands’ names and the albums they were playing. To talk about the four subjects of the songs he writes—love, death, Catholicism and movies. To share his appreciation that people still care about this music. Neither Lewis nor Tamborello nor any other Death Cab for Cutie member spoke a single word. But we were there to hear Gibbard and Lewis sing and to sing right along with them to albums that we still love, that still take us back to younger days. To cheer Gibbard on when he sat behind the drum kit or laugh at his single joke, when he introduced the first encore as an Iron & Wine song and proceeded to play a second, acoustic version of “Such Great Heights.” All the musicians came out for a final song, a cover that they’ve been ending with all tour—Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence,” a perfect marriage of Death Cab’s earnest emotion with danceable synths, the kind of thing that made Give Up such a phenomenon 20 years ago

Josh Jackson is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Paste Magazine. You can find him among the smoldering ruins of of Twitter at @joshjackson.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.