REVIEW: Death Cab for Cutie back after 4-year hiatus


kintsugiKintsugi is proof Death Cab for Cutie is still relevant. The band was at the height of its powers in 2005 with grunge baby Ben Gibbard’s creative energies pouring off him in a thousand directions (in addition to Death Cab, Gibbard was one half of The Postal Service, a wildly successful indie pop band with Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel and Headset). I can’t count the number of times I’ve listened to Death Cab’s 2005 hit album Plans. The intro to Marching Bands of Manhattan takes me back to my $1 PBR days in Florida.

Here’s what makes them unique: Death Cab’s a cult band with mainstream appeal, and they’re the rare example of an act that wasn’t chasing overnight success. Major record labels flirted with the group for several years before their 2003 album Transaltlanticism started popping up in movies and TV shows (remember The O.C.?). Until then, Death Cab had politely rejected mainstream labels. Transaltlanticism made it clear they’d reached “major label” status, and they inked with Atlantic Records in 2005.

Plans came out that year — an album that will likely live on as their most important work. The first two singles — Soul Meets Body and Crooked Teeth — climbed into the top ten on the U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs chart, and I Will Follow You Into the Dark would ultimately become the band’s best-selling single to date.

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What of this new album? The word Kintsugi means “golden joinery” or “golden repair” in Japanese. It’s a reference to the process of fixing broken ceramics with a mixture of powdered gold. Items fixed with powdered gold show off old scars and cracks rather than trying to hide them. They’re badges of honor not unlike the crow’s feet at the corners of Gibbard’s eyes.

I’m having trouble picking my favorite on the album. There’s the catchy Little Wanderer, the weighty and atmospheric Binary Sea and the album’s first single Black Sun, which builds into a rocking, old-school crescendo starting around 2:20. All three are worth starring on Spotify.

The big question is where does Death Cab go from here? The band’s been together for 18 years, and we learned two years ago that guitarist Chris Walla was leaving to do his own thing. Walla was however involved with Kintsugi from start to finish. His riffs have been a key part of the band’s distinctive sound since Day 1, and they’re present on tracks like Little Wanderer and Good Help (Is So Hard To Find).

In some ways, Death Cab suffers from what I call the Blink-182 problem… They’re an aging band whose style appeals to young people (or to aging fans who still like young people’s music). It’s a blessing and a curse. But Death Cab’s latest, Kintsugi (released March 31, 2015), is proof that Death Cab can still write good music.

All in all, Kintsugi’s like welcoming back an old friend after his “experimental phase” chasing peyote-wielding Indians in the American west. They’re older, a bit odder and still a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with (even if you spend most of your time reminiscing).

Check out Kintsugi on Amazon.

Death Cab for Cutie “Kintsugi” Release Date: March 31, 2015.

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