I’ll admit it. I haven’t been a fan of Death Cab for Cutie since day one. I was never that cool or up on things. In fact, I didn’t get on board till the Plans era in 2005, which makes me decidedly late to the game. But over the past six years, I have explored their entire discography, and they have reached the status of a band that I will continue to follow until their very end. And finally, after three long years, I have something to follow again, with the release of Codes and Keys at the end of May.
I wouldn’t call this post a review on Codes and Keys, so much as a commentary on where the album fits into their evolution as a band. Let’s be clear on this: I want Death Cab for Cutie, and all bands, to evolve. One of my biggest pet peeves is when “fans” complain as a band changes over the years. Now, my heart lies back with Transatlanticism, and I know that I am not alone. That album encapsulates everything that is wonderful about the band – beautiful melodies, smart and sad as hell lyrics…it just feels right. Like most things that I enjoy, it is not a thing of happiness. And, notably, Transatlanticism was released in October of 2003, when Ben Gibbard was 27. If I’ve learned anything as someone in my 20s, it’s that they’re crap. And Transatlanticism, as well as their earlier work, resonates with me on that crap-level.
Ben Gibbard will turn 35 this summer. He’s a married man now, and within Codes and Keys, it is apparent. There are whiffs of Zooey-Deschanel-induced happiness on songs like “Monday Morning.” On 2001’s The Photo Album, there is a song called “Why You’d Want to Live Here.” As in, “I can’t see why you’d want to live in Los Angeles.” Ironically, that is where Gibbard now resides. It happens. You get older, and you do things you never thought you would. Like being happy, for example.
Codes and Keys is a good, well-made album. It sounds pretty. I enjoy it. But as a malcontent 24-year-old, there is a deep emotional disconnect for me. I do not wish unhappiness upon Ben Gibbard. I’d prefer him not to write about it, but there isn’t anything I can do about that. I can only let my ears, but not my heart, enjoy Codes and Keys, and hope that I will evolve and catch up with the band – that I, too, can one day be 30, flirty, and thriving like Ben Gibbard. Or that he has a mid-life crisis. That would be a good CD.