On the one hand, you need to lend Death Cab some cred. Even as the four-piece has transitioned from indie to major (Barsuk to Atlantic), they’ve still had the chutzpah to mess with their sound a bit, risking the longevity of their “commercial” careers for the sake of progress. Their first post-Barsuk effort (Plans) had its fair share of issues—sometimes kitschy, sometimes boring, often times forcibly “catchy”—yet it still rose to the occasion, balancing a new set of expectations imposed on the band. Case in point: a song like “Soul Meets Body” may have been overplayed in 2005, but it still sounded like nothing else on the radio at the time. Not bad, Death Cab.
Three years later and we’re handed “I Will Possess Your Heart,” the new single from the band’s forthcoming LP Narrow Stairs. Lo’ and behold, it picks up where “Different Names for the Same Thing” (my favorite track off of Plans) left off: gorgeously spacious production, a hefty bassline, McGerr’s trusty drumming, and even some dissonant guitar work. And holy smokes! The track stretches out for 8.5 minutes! Fuck you, Atlantic!
That may sound like a marathon, but it’s worth it (right?). For about a minute and a half (roughly 3:11 to 4:33), the song finds euphony—feedback engulfs the track, a vibraphone accentuates Gibbard’s sleek piano part, and some hushed “na-na-na-na-na-na-na”s creep in subtly.
Then 4:34 hits. And it all goes to shit.
Gibbard coos off perhaps his sappiest writing yet: “How I wish you could see the potential—the potential of you and me. It’s like a book elegantly bound, but in a language that you can’t read. Cuz ya, you gotta spend some time, love. You gotta spend some time with me. And I know that you’ll find love.” (Drum roll, ladies and gentlemen.) “I will possess your heart.”
At this point, there’s no saving it. We’ve already heard the music for over five minutes (Harmer is still playing that bassline) and even that organ overlay falls flat.
To quote Gibbard, the song is “elegantly bound” but seemingly in a foreign language (Who talks like that? No, honestly, who?) Sure, maybe Death Cab’s songs were always sentimental, but transparent? Hardly. Excuse me while I throw on “Company Calls Epilogue” and mourn the death of a talented lyricist.
(And fuck you, Atlantic!)
“I Will Possess Your Heart” can be heard at www.myspace.com/deathcabforcuti