Earlier this week came the news that Chris Walla, founding member, producer and guitarist of Death Cab For Cutie is leaving the band. A (very lazy) Twitter search reveals the sheer pandemonium that this news brings to Death Cab fans…
…but I’m not all that bothered.
I was a bit of a latecomer to Death Cab, only really getting in to them around the time that Plans was released (I was fifteen at the time; exactly the demographic of a ‘first-time DCFC listener’) but I was hooked. I immediately downloaded the entire back catalogue (sorry guys, I was fifteen and broke, if it’s any consolation I have subsequently bought all of your albums) and ingested it as quickly as I could. I became lost in the melodies softly soaring through my atmosphere (sorry), even if I didn’t quite fully grasp their ‘edgier’ earlier output. The bands that I was in covered their songs – ‘Crooked Teeth’ I remember especially, but I always wanted to do ‘Photobooth’ – and songs like ‘We Looked Like Giants’ and ‘Tiny Vessels’ became the soundtrack to my angsty and emotional teenage life.
Fast-forward a few years and the band release Narrow Stairs and announce a UK tour. Your humble narrator immediately purchases tickets to the Nottingham Rock City date and gets his hands on a copy of the aforementioned album after thinking that ‘I Will Possess Your Heart…’ was the best thing in the world when it first dropped. Somewhere between my second or third listen of Narrow Stairs and driving back home from Rock City on a cold November evening I realised that Death Cab would never make an album like Plans or Transatlanticism again.
My suspicions were confirmed by Codes and Keys that was, on first listen, forty-five minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. Believe me I tried and tried to like it, to get past the soppy ‘I love Zooey Deschanel’ craporama purveyed by the record, but I just couldn’t. Despite this I still bought tickets to the Manchester Academy date later on that year. Although they didn’t play much from Codes and Keys, my friend who came with me, not a big Death Cab fan by any stretch of the imagination, still turned to me and said ‘this is shit, this’. Unfortunately I had to agree with him. The spark heard on songs like ‘For What Reason’, ‘We Laugh Indoors’, ‘Champagne from a Paper Cup’, even ‘Cath…’ from Narrow Stairs, had gone. My suspicion that the best of the band was over, first suggested around the time of Narrow Stairs, had been more than confirmed.
From that day on I have almost exclusively stuck to the earlier albums, occasionally venturing into Narrow Stairs, but not very often and with a feeling that I was late to the party. I put Codes and Keys on during the making of this article but it didn’t take me long before I retreated to the comfort of Something About Airplanes. Even knowing that Chris Walla contributed to the new album (rumoured to be released soon) is no consolation to me because I just know that it won’t be the Death Cab that I want to hear. I sincerely hope that I’m proved wrong by the remaining three members.
And I’ll still listen to ‘The New Year’ every January 1st, every year.