Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys (Atlantic)

May 31, 2011 by  

There is only one way to envisage a new Death Cab album, and that is to expect the unexpected but be prepared for much the same. Cutie have been a different band since signing to a major label and 2005’s ‘Plans’ helped the band reach a plateau of popularity, and cemented their status as the foremost influence in modern ‘indie’ fashions.

By their very nature, the indie artists only exist without major label representation. The passing of ‘Transatlanticism’ put pay to a lot of those ideas, but Death Cab are a strong cast of personalities well capable of the juggling act that is representing an entire genre in a world that they were never intended to be part of. However, Death Cab will always make things challenging for the average listener. After their own admissions of unhappiness about ‘Narrow Stairs’, it was hard to see ‘Codes and Keys’ being anything other than the album it is.

Out of the three releases on Atlantic, this is definitely the most honest that Death Cab have been with themselves. The boyish, teenage deliberations of songwriter Ben Gibbard are not dead, but they are also now not a false embodiment of a man too old to be that much in love with the ideas in his head. He has grown and so too have his lyrics, meaning the hopeless adolescents and stalwart fans can be forgiven for feeling somewhat short-changed, as anyone who has lived with DCFC for the duration will only really know a band who’s hearts are worn on their sleeves. ‘Monday Morning’ is a typical example of what Death Cab For Cutie still do best, which is write great songs around simple ideas, and also dispels fears that Gibbard has lost his touch in the transition but his head seems to be in a different space here.

This album runs with a little more pace than we’re used to and a little more vigour than the previous album. The title track is jaunty affair, with a motivating drum beat and a bittersweet melody, ‘Some Boys’ is a passing lament about youth and maturity, most probably written from experience, but now a memory, more than a current problem. There are more poignant moments interspersed here and there, but this may be the most positive Death Cab we’ve seen in a while, ending on a sweet and hopeful note in the form of ‘Stay Young, Go Dancing’. There are subtle moments of brilliance but no one single track that takes away from the rest of the album, which gives ‘Codes and Keys’ a much fuller, more complete sound. It is definitely an album to savour from first to last, with yet more sterling work from Chris Walla who straddling the roles of band member and producer, has really hit the nail bang on.

It’s not flawless, but only because it does nothing new, but everyone can rejoice a return to form and a new era in which Death Cab, who will cement their status as saviours of the adult alternative variety and maybe go on and win themselves a whole new audience. And who would bet against them when they are still this good?

[rating:4]


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