Death Cab for Cutie EP – The Open Door

I’ve been a casual fan of Death Cab for Cutie for a long time.  I would hear Ben Gibbard’s lilting voice waft into the cab of my truck on some low wattage college station and it would give me pause.  But their music was almost too pretty to be taken seriously.  Gibbard’s lyrics were often melancholic, but framed in beautiful, almost quaint melodies that made the lyrics’ message merely graze the skin tangentally.

But I liked it.  How could you help but like it?  It was as if the 12-year-old next door had suddenly appeared on the radio and was writing vaguely existential poetry to sing over his favorite Elliot Smith songs.

“Little Bribes” grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you while screaming “You said the city was a beating heart, that pushed the people down the boulevard, and they’re all hoping for a wish fulfilled, in a desert for a dollar bill.”  This song has a grinding, Stones-like beat that delivers the lyrics like a sucker punch to the liver, depicting an insightful walk around Las Vegas with a local who knows the score.  The conceit serves up delicious metaphors including my favorite, the slot machine as an anthropomorphized amputee:

“Pretend that every slot machine is a robot amputee waving hello,
The people stare into their eyes and they feed them little bribes and then they go.”

The rest of the EP continues their signature sound, but with more focus than previous releases like Transatlanticism. The potential has always been there, mind you, and I certainly don’t mean to take anything away from songs like “Tiny Vessels”, but releases like The John Byrd EP have hinted for a long time at the kind of razor-sharp tonality that this band has finally achieved with their latest release.

Other gems on this disk include “A Diamond and a Tether,” which is one of the most clever descriptions of men’s confused understanding of monogamous relationships I’ve ever heard, and “Talking Bird (Demo)”, a ukulele lullaby written to a bird caged only by its own confusion.  I suppose “Talking Bird” could be allegorical, but you can practically see Gibbard perched at his kitchen table, with a uke, singing to his half-heartedly caged muse.

And, as if all that wasn’t enough, they posted this delightful video on their site.

I am passive no more; these guys kick ass.