Great name, great band. Not quite at their peak, but not over it either.
Date: November 15, 2008
Venue: Rock City
Death Cab For Cutie’s appeal rose ten-fold a few years back when tracks from the brilliant Transatlanticism album were used to soundtrack teenage heartache and high school frolics on the American teen drama The O.C. However, normal service was quickly resumed, and Washington’s DCFC now find themselves back in their comfort zone: a niche indie scene which is not quite cult but in a similar bracket. The O.C. is no longer de rigueur, and therefore tonight’s crowd are made up of proper DCFC fans and discerning music lovers – not teenage girls pretending to be cool and claiming that they’ve followed them from the start.
The problem with DCFC is that they’re an acquired taste. They’re essentially still college ‘dudes’ despite them all being 30 something; nonchalant geeks dressed in plaid shirts and cords with untended facial fuzz.
To their fans, they’re bona fide heroes. Fan favourites like ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’ – delivered via a haunting solo moment from singer Ben Gibbard – and the throbbing ‘Soul Meets Body’ are rapturously received. But for the casual listener, there’s an issue. Songs have a tendency to simply flutter by without purpose, blurring seamlessly into indistinguishable babel, inducing an aggravating numbness. It’s evident on the faces of the uninitiated in attendance.
However, give them your undivided attention and they will expose their charm, and emit something unaccountably magnetic; something which lures you in and transfixes your attention. It could be Gibbard’s sweet voice – a kind of plaintive monotone. It could be their poetic lyrical output – often sorrowful but hopelessly romantic. Or it could just be the hypnotic rhythms forged by melancholic piano chords, mesmeric drum beats, squally guitars and a lo-fi college rock sound.
Whatever it is DCFC have certainly carved out an intelligible niche in the indie circuit similar to that of Modest Mouse, Brendan Benson’s solo work (before he joined The Raconteurs) and seminal slacker-rock heroes Pavement. It’s understated indie – music for nerds and geeks as they slump to type their blogs and scrutinise mind-mangling web code. It’s melodic yet wistful; pleasing yet mournful.
The O.C. worshippers soon realised this wasn’t for them and they’ve now most likely turned their fickle heads to the Klaxons’ album thanks to Skins. But for the geeks, nerds and romantics amongst us, we’ll always be transfixed by DCFC.