Death Cab for Cutie’s “You Are a Tourist” video was very much a temporary thing … in theory, it existed only once, shot and broadcast live, in one continuous take, to the Internet, where it now lives in a state of eternal repetition.
So, you can sort of understand why, when it came time to shoot the second clip off their upcoming Codes and Keys album, they were looking for something a bit more permanent. Which is why they turned to artist Shepard Fairey for help. With his large-scale, very-public murals (chances are, you’ve seen his “Obey” work adorning the wall of a metropolis near you), a sort of forced permanence seems to be part of his master plan.
And on Monday, Death Cab unveiled the result of their collaboration with Fairey, a video for “Home Is a Fire.” Directed by the artist and DCFC bassist Nick Harmer, it takes the viewer on a visual trip through (and, ultimately, above) the grittier sections of Los Angeles, from the cracks in the pavement to the hills of Hollywood. But the clip is not just a wayward tour. We quickly see that the lyrics to the song have been stenciled and pasted all across the city — courtesy of Fairey — a sly way for the band to add their lasting touch to the landscape.
And in a sense, those lyrics take on a whole new meaning when paired with Los Angeles itself, especially lines like “Cars on the freeway/ tempting a clean break/ There’s nowhere left to go” and “Plates they will shift/ Houses will shake/ Fences will drift,” which seem to speak to the city’s eternal traffic (and its residents’ yearning to escape it) and, of course, the constant fear of tectonic catastrophe.
But you don’t have to live in L.A. to get the message. At its heart, “Home Is a Fire” speaks to weighty concepts we all struggle with: the promise of home, the confinement of open spaces, the alienation we feel in even the most familiar of locations. As Harmer put it in a lengthy statement on Death Cab’s official site:
“There are many narratives here or there are none, it either makes sense or it doesn’t. But regardless of whether or not this ‘means’ anything to you, I hope there is a mood and atmosphere in the music and images that makes you think about your familiar spaces and how you define them.”
And really, whether we’re at home or on the road, that struggle to define ourselves and our spaces is one that’s been with us for a long time, and it’s only growing as we pull further and further away from our centers, be they our physical homes or the comfort of genuine social interaction. It’s a constant battle; nearly permanent, for lack of a better word.