03 October 2005

the OC-fication of indie music

i will follow you into the dark : death cab for cutie
click on the band image below to listen

lightness : death cab for cutie
click on the o.c. cd cover image below to listen

Ossification : the process of becoming rigidly fixed in a conventional pattern of thought or behavior; hardened conventionality.

You're probably sick of hearing about Death Cab For Cutie by now, but just bear with me for a moment. I've been listening to them for a while now, impressed by the jagged lyricism of vocalist Ben Gibbard and the innovative production of guitarist Chris Walla. Ben writes with a singular perspective on the perennial themes of love and death, with none of the affected anger or cynical alienation that tears through the coffee-stained napkins of every jaded Seattle songwriter armed with bitter ink. Instead, Gibbard's songs are laden with the insecurity of a young man who fumbles through his relationships and emotions in search of himself, yet chooses to remain only half-involved. He's the guy who stands outside the coffee house, looking through its rain-soaked glass walls, watching a watercolor semblance of himself enjoying a cheesecake with a girl named Guinevere. Happiness, for him, is an undeserved privilege. You don't listen to Death Cab For Cutie to feel good about yourself, unless you get off mocking followers of the heretofore obscure band.

Their collective outing, however, came with the popularity of the TV drama The O.C. I've never sat through an entire episode of that show, but from what I gather one of its main characters, the nerdy and -- guess what -- insecure Seth has dropped the band's name in a number of episodes. Its creators topped it off by ultimately crafting a scene where the band performed on the show, unquestionably giving Death Cab For Cutie the kind of buzz that buzzes the buzzers of major record labels. With their latest album Plans, released just about a month ago, the quartet of Ben (vocals, guitar), Chris (vocals, keyboard), Jason McGerr (drums) and Nick Harmer (bass) finally strip their eight-year-old indie identity and settle into the cushy cushions of Atlantic Records. And with that comes the attendant indignation of long-time fans wearing Death Cab T-shirts stamped with a blood-red SELLOUT! across the chest. To be sure, it's easy to criticize the album. While it's good enough to please tolerant followers like myself -- especially with songs like I Will Follow You Into The Dark -- it offers nothing new and, I can objectively say, is a step down from the glasscutter sharpness of Transatlanticism, where the song Lightness comes from. I'm posting both songs for you to compare and contrast.

Naturally, today's Rock Star Quote of the Day comes from a Cutie, bassist Nick Harmer. This mouthful comes from their cover story on Paste Magazine. "If you have a hard line on bands and major labels, that pretty much says to me that you have the lamest record collection of anyone in the world. I guess you don't buy any Clash records or Talking Heads records or Bowie. I guess you don't have any Stones or Beatles or Pixies or Radiohead or Nirvana...There are a million great bands who have done major-label things and had their souls intact. And if you would tell me that you're not going to buy their records, from the sheer fact that a major label is affiliated with it, I guess that's your prerogative, but I don't want to hang out with you. If you've never danced your ass off to 'Walking on Sunshine' or The Romantics' 'What I Like About You', you're a hollow person. Anyway, whatever, I could go on and on, but I don't want to make it sound like a rant." So there.

Rock Star Boyfriend Joins Model Girlfriend in Shame. From The Guardian: "Pete Doherty, frontman with the band Babyshambles, was released on police bail last night after being arrested earlier in a drugs raid on a venue in Shrewsbury, where he had been playing. Doherty, the on-off boyfriend of supermodel Kate Moss, had been performing at the town's Music Hall on Saturday night shortly before it was raided by detectives with sniffer dogs. A number of items recovered during the raid will be forensically examined; a quantity of what were believed to be class A drugs was also recovered."

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