Monday, August 17, 2009

89. 'Blacking Out The Friction', Death Cab for Cutie, 2001

“I think that it's brainless to assume that making changes to your window's view will give a new perspective.”

I don’t reckon that Death Cab is much of a singles band and it’s safe to say that the sum of their best albums is definitely better than the individual parts. Everyone’s got their opinion, but I think the boys peaked out with “Transatlanticism” and their major label debut “Plans”. (Last year’s “Narrow Stairs” was a drag, and makes me worry about where these guys are headed, even if it did have a few good songs).

“I don’t mind the weather. I’ve got scarves and hats and sweaters. I've got long johns and under slacks for blustery days.”

“Blacking Out The Friction” comes from “The Photo Album” (a pretty good name for a Death Cab album, as most of their songs seem to be little snapshot observations from Ben Gibbard’s bespectacled head), the album that got me into these guys in the first place. The best of Death Cab is on full display in this song: crunching and simultaneously chiming guitars mixed with a soft keyboard melody that seems to float through the song and drive it at the same time. There might be better or more relevant Death Cab songs than this one, but I always come back to this one and never get sick of it. Sometimes, the song that introduced you to a band, or the one that really drew you in as a big fan, is the one that is the most timeless to you. For example, everyone – fans and critics alike -- seems to think that “If You’re Feeling Sinister” is the best Belle and Sebastian album and I actually like it least of their first three albums. “The Boy With The Arab Strap” is one of my favorites for the simple reason that it was my introduction to them as a band. I never tire of that album. Ditto for “Blacking Out The Friction”.

There are tons of other Death Cab songs that could easily have been included on here. “Transatlatisicm” is a slow one that really stood out when I saw these guys at The Bowery Ballroom on this tour – it was basically made for a small club like that, with its building crescendos and crashing ending. “The Sound Of Settling” is a great burst of two-minute pop rock goodness. “Expo ‘86” and “Title and Registration” both never fail to remind me of the year they were released, a telltale sign that they got it right. “Marching Band of Manhattan” is a quintessential Death Cab “rock song”. And “Soul Meets Body” is where R.E.M should have gone in 1995 instead of the abomination that was “Monster”.

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