Death Cab For Cutie – Codes And Keys (Atlantic)

Death Cab For Cutie Code and Keys

Death Cab For Cutie have maintained a pretty constant workrate over their recent career, despite increasing side projects (Ben Gibbard’s The Postal Service and collaborating with ex-Uncle Tupelo man Jay Farrar, and guitarist Chris Walla’s solo work) and distractions (Gibbard’s marraige to She & Him indie queen Zooey Deschanel). Their initial burst of popularity came through soundtracking the love lives of mega-rich young Americans on shows like The O.C, and despite these yuppyish connotations the quality of their songwriting has rarely diminshed since 2001’s excellent Transatlanticism record.


Last effort Narrow Stairs saw the band flesh out their melodicism with some Wilco-esque Krautrocking (especially on the epic “I Will Possess Your Heart”) and many felt that the band would continue their more leftfield sonic explorations here. The band added to this with some of their pre-album spiel, saying that they had ditched the guitars almost entirely, but those hoping for DCFC‘s Kid A moment will be disappointed. True, many of the songs are awash with digital layers and beats, but much of the music is based on strong piano and guitar work, especially the sugary rush of lead single “You Are A Tourist”.


The key to their success, as so often before, lies with Gibbard’s indelible melodies. Tunes like the nagging opener “Home Is A Fire” and the boogie-piano bounce of “Some Boys” have melodies so strong you’ll feel you’ve heard them a million times before. And you’ll be singing along by the time the choruses hit again, even on your first listen. His lyrics, as always, centre on relationships and matters of the heart, with the obvious exception of “St. Peters’ Cathedral” with it’s simplistic musings on religion – “When our hearts stop ticking, then that’s the end and there’s nothing past this“. His voice has aged well too, and sounds much less like the boyish tenor that soundtracks all those teen soaps early in their career.


So this record ends up pretty much being more of the same from Gibbard and Co. It’s not going to topple their early-noughties peak, but this is a mature and wonderfully well written album. When they aim for a Transatlanticism-style gently swelling epic on “Unobstructed Views”, you can see the intention, and it nearly comes off. But the hairs on your neck just don’t quite stand up as they did when Gibbard sang “So come ooooooohhhhhnnnnnnn” over and over again. Maybe ditching those guitars completely could do the trick next time…..

Release Date – 31st May 2011


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