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Is Death Cab learning to love?

Death Cab for Cutie has a new album out called Codes and Keys. After the release of their previous full-length album Narrow Stairs I alleged that Death Cab has a deficient view of love. However after digesting the new album for a bit, it seems that their tune is changing.

The most notable thing about this album is the conspicuous absence of a trademark Death Cab song: the one where love simply evaporates and two former mates inexplicably drift apart. For example, in "The Ice is Getting Thinner" on Narrow Stairs:

We're not the same, dear, as we used to be.
The seasons have changed and so have we.
There was little we could say, and even less we could do
To stop the ice from getting thinner under me and you.

But now lyricist Benjamin Gibbard is perhaps admitting that love is a verb, as in "Some Boys" on the new album:

Some boys are singing, some boys are singing the blues
Joylessly flinging with the girls that they're bringing to their rooms
And then leave when they're through
Some boys are sleeping, some boys are sleeping alone
Cause there's no one that's keeping them warm through evening
They know that they're on their own

Some boys don't know how to love

As in, it seems that the deficiency of love consists not in the nature of love, but in the character of the lover. So maybe Death Cab is growing up. As it happens, Gibbard got married since the last album came out. There also seems to be a new spark of optimism to overwhelm the dark themes of the last album. Previously, in "No Sunlight":

They disappeared at the same speed
The idealistic things I believed
The optimist died inside of me

Whereas now, in "Your are a Tourist":

When there's a burning in your heart
An endless yearning in your heart
Build it bigger than the sun
Let it grow, let it grow

How's that for a change? The lyrics aree much more listenable in Codes and Keys than the previous effort. It is no just blind, stupid optimism, however. It is an honest encounter with the fact that the sort of pessimistic attitude of Narrow Stairs is just not livable.

So I like the new album much better. The music is outstanding as well. It is an album you can learn to love.

Death Cab has a deficient view of love

Death Cab for Cutie is one of my favorite bands. I must admit that their newest album, Narrow Stairs, was a bit of a let down. That is to be expected after their magnum opus Plans. What really got me ticked at Death Cab was the finally track on the album, "The Ice is Getting Thinner." It's actually a pretty neat song, in and of itself. The problem I had was that it was almost the exact same song as "Summer Skin" on the previous record. They employ the same metaphor (the change of seasons) to describe how two people fell out of love. The change of season is different (summer->fall v. winter->spring), but that is about it. The song "Tiny Vessels" has almost the same thing - "dark grey clouds" move in after two weeks of California sun (summer->fall again). I am breathlessly anticipating the same song on their next two albums: "The leaves fell off the tree" and "The blossoms have wilted." Soon I realized that the unoriginality of it was not the main problem. It's Death Cab's conception of love. To them, love is just an accident. It is a fickle emotion, as ephemeral as a freckle. Observe:

But there’s no blame for how our love did surely fade, and now that it's gone, it's like it wasn't there at all. We left our love in our summer skin. There was little we could say, and even less we could do, to stop the ice from getting thinner under me and you.

Oops, we fell out of love. Oh well. "I will possess your heart" has its own problems. Even their treatment of a long relationship is colored by this cynicism (from "Brothers on a Hotel Bead"):

You may tire of me as our December sun is setting because I'm not who I used to be . . . cause now we say goodnight from our own separate sides like brothers on a hotel bed.

I love the music, I love the lyrics, I love the presentation. But I hate Death Cab's view of love. It is, of course, quite opposite from the type of love about which Jesus and the apostles taught.

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