Death Cab for Cutie
I know that there are those of you who don't get this band. Too depressing, you say. But I'm a student of 19th-century poetry, and this sort of nuanced melancholy is right up my alley,
So on this unofficial last day of summer -- with that back-to-school turning-a-new-page stuff hanging over all of our heads -- here's a haunting track from the 2005 album Plans.
Right off the bat, we know we're in yearning territory -- "I want to live where soul meets body." Because, we have to infer, he doesn't at present live there. Despite the perky beat, the shush-shush drum track, all that stuff about bathing in sunlight and cool water and being fresh and new -- that's just wishful thinking.
The reality? "Cause in my head there's a Greyhound station." Now, anyone who's ever spent time in a Greyhound station knows how desperate that sort of place is. Sure, he's sending his thoughts off to various destinations, but the underlying scuzz cannot be erased. Not even by the lame guitar solo in the break. (Or by the next verse, which is classic gravedigger stuff -- "turn the dirt with our palms cupped like shovels"? ";"our filthy hands can wash one another's" -- yowza!).
But then -- hey presto -- Ben Gibbard pulls a rabbit out of a hat: "I do believe it's true / That there's are roads left in both of our shoes." That's such a seductive line to me, working that sweet highway metaphor for all it's worth. Even if it's followed by the slightly death-wish-ish "If the silence takes you / Then I hope it takes me too." (Shades of "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"). And even more important -- the melody of that hook is a total ear-worm, with an incantatory, hypnotic quality -- it's been haunting my brain for weeks.
Sure, the song is tinged with melancholy. But what sticks with me? The positive message of that "roads left in both of our shoes" hook. The dream-weaving third verse, where he declares, "You're the only song I want to hear / A melody soaring through my atmosphere." That soaring "where soul meets body" refrain, And yes, those groovy Burt Bacharach-esque "Bada bada ba bas" in the bridge. Raindrops keep falling on my head, but that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turning red.
Who doesn't feel down sometimes? Death Cab's giving us a road map for climbing back out of the hole. Which is sometimes exactly what we need.