Today I had to walk about 7 miles to get my bicycle fixed so I could bicycle 4 miles, after working from 6am to 2:30pm, and being written up for being late two weeks ago. Needles to say, it’s been kind of a rough day, and I’ve got about a load of laundry’s amount of time in which to write this thing today before crashing until 4am tomorrow. I have decided to select a random album I haven’t heard before and am sure not to like but have obtained through some kind of means, and hopefully we’ll be able to get through this together, you and I.
Ok, looks like we’re talking about Death Cab For Cutie, the indiest of indie bands, and we all know how much I hate indie!
Track One – Bixby Canyon Bridge
This track takes exactly 10 seconds to get on my nerves. The opening note being played assuredly on expensive vintage crap instruments with plenty-o-reverb is broken up with a vocal melody that kind of comes out of nowhere in pursuit of nothing and accomplishes as much. The trilling of the reverb guitar gives way to “1-2-3-4″ counts on every instrument, and now, about 2 1/2 minutes in, we start a minute-long crescendo, (perhaps to a chorus?) and after building up this much, it had better go somewhere that makes any kind of sense or accomplishes anything that’s going to make anyone feel like the several minutes of build up is going to pay off in any way…
… and the whole thing gets thrown off a cliff! Hear the guitar noise scream as all the musicians plummet to their death! Oh, except for the singer, he’s still singing that senseless yet flaccid vocal part to the end.
Track Two – I Will Possess Your Heart
This track opens with noodling from various instruments, as if they couldn’t figure out exactly which instrument to start the song with, eventually settling for the bass. You’re kidding, there’s 8 minutes of this?
My sister actually swears she loves this song, though she can’t stand the rest of the album, I am not sure what there is in this song to set it apart from anything else, I guess it actually has a groove, which is good, except that 2 minutes have passed with nary a chord change, modulation, any vocals, or any kind of interesting thing happening. Oh a guitar is bending a note, that’s clever, I can do that too, you know. This is the kind of song that I purposely plug my ear up and move my finger up and down to get kind of a “cutting in and out” effect going, you know, to make some kind of change in the song. We’re now at nearly 4 minutes and half-way through what I can only guess is the slowest build up in “rock” history. The only thing that has kind of happened is the drums are being played a bit louder and there’s a guitar noodling out something undiscernable, thanks to the huge amount of reverb and feedback.
Ah! 4 1/2 minutes and now we have vocals. I remember hearing somewhere that these lyrics are “clever” and this guy is a “genius” and he’s even done duets with “Elvis Costello”, but this is a song about someone who is such an insufferable musician that the only way to like him is to let him hang around you until you develop some kind of Stockholm Syndrome (speaking of, that is a much better song and I really gotta get around to talking about that album from Muse).
So after two chorus-less stanzas we’re already down to “na na na’s” and repetition of the song’s title. To tell you the truth, this would be good music with which to grind out a few levels in an RPG video game or something. If it only didn’t have the vocals.
Track Three – No Sunlight
This song is only 2 1/2 minutes long, and is thus my favorite on the whole album.
Track Four – Cath…
What is the appeal of having a fancy beat and only playing down-strokes on your guitar strumming along with it? I can imagine if you can only do downstrokes because of some physical or mental deficiency, but one of the establishments that indie rock has firmly grasped onto that endears me the least to it is the ultra-boring down-stroke-only no-solos-ever approach to playing $10,000 guitars that cost $20 in the 50′s.
Track Five – Talking Bird
“Oh?” is the opening line, the question mark means that the vocals raised in pitch barely, as if asking a question. In the context of this song, however, the “Oh” is not a question, it’s just the way this guy sings, you know, instead of really coming up with a crackin’ melody or something to use his asthmatic voice on, he just raises the pitch slightly at the end of every line. This is another convention I have noticed in this “indie” thing.
Track Six – You Can Do Better Than Me
Oh! A sub-2-minute song! I almost got excited when I heard a timpani and piano playing that John Lennon rhythm (one of the two that I can play because I am incapable of playing piano properly, make a note of this), but the guy comes in and sings and then the whole thing just goes to Hell in a Zamboni.
Track Seven – Grapevine Fires
I’m a fan of fancy drums, I really am, but something is taken away from the fanciness when there are no real fills or changes or anything. I guess this is how you make your music trendy? Is this something that kids do so they can write this stuff while completely high? Grandpa doesn’t understand, and the kid inside of me is so very sad.
Track Eight – Your New Twin Sized Bed
Again, an intro that shows promise. It’s a song about a bed, and that’s a metaphor, you see. There’s about 1 measure of interesting noise in there, I guess it’s after the chorus, but I probably won’t get to hear it again… Is it worth waiting another 1 1/2 minutes to find out? The world may never know!
Track Nine – Long Division
It’s amazing to me how all the reviews I read about one of my favorite bands (an “indie” band, no less!) is supposed to sound “Just like Death Cab For Cutie”. I am speaking, of course, about The Pale Pacific. Dude those guys are clearly miles better than this, maybe it’s because all their instruments aren’t pushed way to the background because they’re trying to sound like the 60′s, or maybe it’s because they actually play songs that can be discerned from each other. Ok I’ll talk about this song “Long Division”, it’s actually good, but would be better without vocals or lyrics.
Track Ten – Pity And Fear
Well it’s “Within You Without You” only less good and with electric guitar playing a few notes. Once again, a massive build-up comes in, but will the build-up actually pay off?
Answer: Yes! Why did it take 10 songs to get this right? So now we’ve got a proper rhythm line, a melody that makes some sense, and those percussive Indian instruments are a great compliment to the bouncy bass. Right-o, we’ve got an ok song on the album, time to go home, yes?
Track Eleven – The Ice Is Getting Thinner
Oh dear, now the album’s blood sugar has run extremely low, and it’s now in a catatonic state. The lyrics contain metaphors like “burying” things, which is interestingly a consistency in most of the music I really don’t like.
And that, my friends, is Narrow Stairs by Death Cab For Cutie. I apologize if I have offended anyone of “indie” sensibilities, maybe if you wore loose pants once in a while you might get some blood back in your legs and you can listen to more dancable tunes that aren’t The Ting Tings or that dreadful MGMT. I am going to bed until I die or wake up, good night!
ADDENDUM: I seem to have approached this writeup under entirely the wrong impression of the people involved with it. After reading quotes on the Wikipedia entry of the album, it seems that “Chris Walla”, the guy responsible for the grumpiest nap-times in music, is actually mentally retarded! Though it’s entirely too late to go back and actually change my writeup, I will just say here that is it not the intention of this blog to make fun of the mentally deficient unless the author knows beforehand the mental capabilities of his subjects. Indeed, if only I had read the words:
…thus far it’s pretty weird and pretty spectacular; lots of blood. It’s creepy and heavy… we’ve got a ten minute long Can jam, and had you suggested that possibility to me in 1998, I’d have eaten your puppy’s brain with a spoon.
…But I’m really excited about it. It’s really got some teeth. The landscape of the thing is way, way more lunar than the urban meadow sort of thing that has been happening for the last couple of records.
I would have been fully aware of the type of toddleresque mentality we’re dealing with here and would have approached the album more appropriately. Apologies to all, and to all, a good night!