Hippo Manchester
September 29, 2005


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CD Reviews
Amy Diaz

Death Cab for Cutie, Plans

Atlantic, 2005


Lots of people can and do sing mopey songs about love, death and gloom. Death Cab for Cutie is one of the few bands that does it well.

It’s a skill — angst can so easily turn into whining; ruminations about life can quickly turn into stuff your philosophy major friends say when they’re high. Death Cab manages to stay just this side of that line.

Death Cab does good with the “upbeat” songs (why the quotes? You tell me, how upbeat is “Sorrow drips into your heart through a pin hole”?) and good with the darker moods (of which there are many more). The peppy “Marching Bands of Manhattan” (from which the previous line came) and “Soul Meets Body” (the dancy second track) are sort of softly ’80s-retro.

The real beauty of Death Cab comes in songs like “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” the track from which the first quote came. Though the song is something of a sweet love song about a couple beating back the fear of death (and separation), it contains perhaps the best explanation of lapsed-Catholicism I’ve ever heard. The narrator describes an encounter with a nun “she told me, ‘Son/Fear is the heart of love,’ so I never went back.” Pulling this off takes something more than your run-of-the-indie-radio-mill use of emo sensibilities over catchy pop-rock.