Chris Walla was eating a burrito in rural Massachusetts when he had a
"Maybe we should call the record Plans," the Death Cab for Cutie
guitarist recalled telling bassist Nick Harmer. They presented the idea
to the rest of the band, who lingered on it for only a few brief seconds
"I swear to God, it was that easy," Walla laughed. Due August 30, Death
Cab's fifth album picks up where their 2003 breakthrough,
Transatlanticism, left off.
"They're in the same kind of ilk as [The Beatles'] Rubber Soul to
Revolver," frontman Ben Gibbard said of the companionlike nature
of the albums, stressing that he's not comparing their work to the Fab
"It has a lot of the spirit of Transatlanticism," Walla
explained. "Picking up there, yet moving forward. This is the first time
in the history of the band that the same four people have worked on two
records in a row."
While "The O.C." has famously been generous to the band's rising profile
the past two years, it's another show that has featured their music
-- HBO's "Six Feet Under" -- that has the most in common with
the new album's dark motifs. While emolike sentiments of love and loss
remain, existential questions revolving around life and death seem to
preoccupy the quartet on Plans. And despite Death Cab's most
fruitful times, a major-label debut, artistic autonomy and a huge
following awaiting their next move, Gibbard can't help but wait for the
other shoe to drop.
"When things are going great I can only think, 'When is this going to
end?' " Gibbard said. "[In a good relationship] it's like, 'One of us is
gonna die one day, and that's really gonna be a bummer.' Knowing that
there will be an eventual end to it is something I can't shake and
should probably seek therapy for."
However bleak it sounds, the record still retains optimism and walks
that patented DCFC line between where happiness ends and sadness begins.
(Or is it the other way around?)
The album opens with the anthemic and bittersweet "Marching Bands of
Manhattan," a soaring and classic Death Cab mini-movie. Commencing with
elegiac organs, a lyrical story builds to a Coldplay-esque
grandiloquence with the heartbreaking lyrics "Sorrow drips into your
heart from a pinhole/ Just like a faucet that leaks/ And there is
comfort in the sound/ But while you debate half-empty and half-full/
Your love is gonna drown."
Produced by guitarist/ studio whiz Walla in a barn in Longview,
Massachusetts, the album achieved a focus from the isolation. "It's got
a pretty cool sonic sprawl to it," he said. "But it's more concentrated
and more pinpointed than the other records, and I think that comes with
the clarity of being zeroed in -- being in a barn, not having
anything around you."
Plans' first single, "Soul Meets Body," is an uptempo track that
again grapples with existential questions and reconciling personal
needs. "It's a declaration of desire over circumstance," Walla said. "It
means, 'Here's where I am and here's what I want to be and how do I
bridge those two things.' I think it's a beautiful articulation of love,
friendships and relationships and everything you do over the course of
While a video has yet to be shot, Death Cab do have some humorous
ideas. "Cheerios," Walla said, "swimming through a bowl of cereal
-- you know, a whole General Mills theme."
Other key tracks on the 11-track Plans include the wistful piano
number "What Sarah Said" -- with its melancholy refrain "Love is
watching someone die/ So who's gonna watch you die?" -- and the
sparse, acoustic "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," which reprises the
death theme yet again.
"There's a lot of songs about love and death and how those two things
interact with one another, themes of finding love and being afraid of
losing it to a number of things and a sense of never being quite
satisfied," a reflective Gibbard said.
Antidotes to those heavy contemplative moods (at least musically) are
the upbeat "Your Heart Is an Empty Room" and "Crooked Teeth."
"[Plans] can be uplifting, but not in that new-agey kind of way.
It's certainly not a Christian-rock record," Gibbard laughed.
An October tour with Stars and Youth Group is expected to be announced
soon. Those who can't wait for Plans' August release can busy
themselves with the group's recent DVD, "Drive Well, Sleep Carefully," a
13-song collection of live performances from a 2004 spring tour plus a
handful of festival dates including a Lollapalooza appearance.
Plans track list, according to the band's publicist:
Death Cab for Cutie tour dates, according to their publicist: