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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

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[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Death Cab for Cutie
Transatlaticism
Barsuk Records

Rating: NR/10 ?


October 1, 2004
That several major publications have called Transatlanticism both Death Cab's best and worst album to date should be a pretty good indication to the discerning consumer of rock criticism that the truth lies somewhere in between. Two factors seem to weigh quite heavily on the finished product that is Transatlanticism, but it is hard to say whether it is DCFC's increasing focus on production - as evidenced by the fact that this CD had long been slated to be released on Super Audio compact disc sometime in November - over songwriting, or the short amount of time principal songwriter Ben Gibbard had to work on these songs after his side project, The Postal Service, blew up, requiring extensive touring of the United States, played the biggest role, or even if both were detrimental

Surely shooting your wad on too many songs over a short period of time can create some duds, but striving for a clean and polished recording without any character can make an album just as banal. Thankfully, there are both some highlights in songwriting and production to be found on the album. Showcasing what Death Cab for Cutie does best, "Expo '86" begins with chords that feel as if the listener is about to be awash in a beautiful DCFC dirge of yore, before slipping into bouncy arpeggios, vocal hooks, and octave propelled choruses.

"Title and Registration" like its sister song, "Death of an Interior Decorator", work on an engaging drum loop and the catchiest guitar riff and melody on the record. Equally gorgeous is the final crack of the snare on "Tiny Vessels" bouncing against a slap-back delay and triggering the loop that forms the sonic sheeting for the title track.

The title track has its shortcomings though. The piano has become an increasing focal point in Death Cab's sound ever since The Photo Album, causing the unfortunate, but unfortunately not entirely inaccurate, comparisons to Coldplay being bandied about. Though the lovely "Passenger Seat" and rocker "We Looked Like Giants" use the piano effectively, it seems, rather, to drag "Transatlanticism" down. It's also this track where new drummer Jason McGerr does a grievous disservice to the band. The static down beat that picks up in the third minute and lasts throughout the rest of the seven-plus minute song becomes monotonous to the point of making its dynamic importance to the track entirely negligible. Not even the beautiful choir of voices here can save a seven-minute song when it only has enough material to last a little over five.

Lyrically, Gibbard's thematic musings over the effects of distance and separation on relationships are as poignant as ever. Frequently mining the dark sides of loveless sex for material, the vocals cut to the bone as he sings, "I wanted to believe in all the words that I was speaking/as we moved together in the dark" on "Tiny Vessels ", but the facet of Transatlanticism that may be even more compelling is its insistence to come to terms not only with life's series of failed relationships, but also with finding a way to grow comfortable with them in old age. "Our youth is fleeting/old age is just around the bend/and I can't wait to go gray" Gibbard sings on "The Sound of Settling", and this notion becomes increasingly important as the album plays out in songs that seem to beg for some sort of explosive release. When that moment does arrive in the middle of "Tiny Vessels" though, it fittingly reflects the "cheap" nature of the easy payoff the songs lyrics describe

A good album by a band that has consistently set a high quality mark for itself, Transatlaticism can't help but feel a bit disappointing. While it may not be their finest work, the trick Death Cab for Cutie pulls is finding a way to make their flaws engaging. You keep listening in hopes that somehow the parts you don't like will magically change when you pop the disc in this time. A mature and logical progression from The Photo Album, Death Cab's acceptance of their age may begin to leave some listeners behind - how many independent rock bands make it through their fourth album these days? - Though they seem perfectly OK with that. Hopefully, all the "go big" choruses are out of their system and now they can just "go home" to what they do best.

Reviewed by Mark Skipper
Mark Skipper currently resides in Nashville, TN where he can be found skipping shows, drinking Guinness, making bad home recordings, and complaining about how much music sucks these days.

See other reviews by Mark Skipper

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