Track Review: Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart

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/deathcabforcutie

5 Comments on “Track Review: Death Cab for Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart

  1. first things first – he never says the word “cuz” or “cause” or anything of the like
    second, are you complete without taste? differrent names is nothing compared to this song
    do you know anything music? even pop music? this is bad writing.
    write something worth hearing some day, then you can bitch about something a real songwriter like gibbard wrote
    i’m not being a fanboy for the sake of it – i wouldnt defend a lot of plans… but are you fuckin kidding me? have you even heard the song? have you heard heir catalogue? where the hell are you coming from.
    put the song on and don’t decide that you have to be cool and rip on a good band thats gotten popular
    listen to the music and then sit down and pass judgment – and be civil. for fucks sake, who the hell are you?

  2. I completely agree with your assessment of this song — it does take the more interesting aspects of Plans, like “Different Names” (which I thought of as a highlight as well) and then Gibbard totally ruins it.

  3. The only thing that seems to redeem the lyrical content is that he at least has the decency to not overdo the lyrics too much and repeats the “you’ve got to spend some time” line over and over. Just, please, stop telling a freaking whiny story about how he wishes he were lovers with someone. Blech.

  4. Dan, spot on with your review here. I’ve been a follower of their music since the beginning and am convinced the correlation with their success has been inversely proportionate to their creativity in songwriting. Plans and Transatlanticism are DCFC’s weakest showings, though they hit on some songs it’s not the collective effort seen on their earlier work.

    When I listened to “I will possess your heart”, I was stupefied in how cool the track sounded and like you feel they drifted away from a very enveloping first 4.3 minutes of bliss. It’s still a great song but now Ben’s vocals become an appendage to the song rather than the main force. Earlier works had me waiting to hear his vocals, now I tense up hoping for the best.

  5. Great song. Dan , I live next door to Wayne Coyle who’s forgotten more about music than you will ever know.

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