I remember back in the mid 00s, I kind of hated Death Cab for Cutie. I had several reasons, but honestly, I think it was that they were just too popular and I was just too cool for school. I remember a friend of mine from that era used to say that if I don’t like something just because it was popular, I was still letting what is popular influence me. Damn I hated when she would say that. of course, I always said I wasn’t doing that – that I actually did not like whatever song, movie, or what have you. Still looking back at who I was, I’m pretty sure I hated things just because they were popular. I’ll even go so far as to say that I still do that – but I digress.
Like I said, I didn’t like Death Cab for Cutie back in that era. I did like a few songs here and there. “President of What” felt like a battle cry against the current administration (sadly, that song is even more relevant today). “I Was a Kaleidoscope” is just a fun song. And of course, there’s the cover of “Handle me with Care.” Technically, that’s a Jenny Lewis song, but Ben Gibbard did an amazing job at covering Roy Orbison’s vocals. Oh, and of course the Postal Service still gets several plays a year from me. So it wasn’t like I hated all things Death Cab for Cutie, but I still felt they were overrated.
One of the reasons I said they were overrated: I always felt like they tried too hard with their lyrics. I remember reading an article after Transantlanticism came out said something about their lyrics being “Hey, aren’t I clever?” I got really excited, and was like “yeah….that’s how I feel about them!” Looking back, maybe I thought that way because I do the same thing. Readers of my blog already know that I sometimes try to push how clever I am on my audience. So maybe there was more to it than just the fact that they were too popular….maybe they reminded me too much of myself. And maybe that scared me – but I digress. Aren’t I clever?
OK, so what made me change my mind? Pretty much what changes my mind about most music anymore – a random song on Spotify. In this case, it was the song “I Will Possess Your Heart.” Half the song is this amazing instrumental. Four minutes or so in, and you’re like…this is nice. And then the vocals start. At this point, I didn’t even expect vocals, I thought it was all instrumental. It’s almost like two songs smashed together. Once more, the “two songs” don’t quite look like they could fit together…at least not on paper. The two songs feel almost alien from each other. The rhythms don’t match, the instrumentation on the first part does not match the lyrics on the second part…honestly it looks like two cars going full speed and crashing into each other. Yet, when they do crash, what emerges from the wreckage is an amazing and beautiful thing. Ok, so maybe that’s a morbid metaphor, so for the sake of making things well – no one in either car was hurt and their insurance covered the costs in full and both cars got replaced with something better. But I digress again….am I still being clever?
While writing this article, I, of course, have been listening to Death Cab for Cutie – some of the more popular songs of course, but also some of the deep cuts. I have a theory that any band worth listening to should have a few songs that are absolutely amazing but just aren’t very well known outside of their fan base. I may not have found those songs with Death Cab (yet), but I got to say, I have not heard a bad song. As far as the “Hi, aren’t I clever lyrics,” I’m not hearing those either. I’m hearing clever lyrics, yes. Lyrics from a master wordsmith. So even if they are saying “Hi, Aren’t I Clever,” they have every right to say so. Maybe that’s what’s got me more receptive to this band. Car crash analogies notwithstanding, I’ve learned in the last 15 years I don’t have to try to be clever, because I am clever. I realize this sounds extremely narcissistic, but I’ve learned how smart I really am, and that it’s ok to admit it. I also know that in admitting this, I gain confidence, and thus come up with even more brilliant ideas, writings, or what have you. I’ve learned that being smart is a strength, just as the clever lyrics of Death Cab for Cutie is also a strength.
If there’s a point to this article, other than go listen to everything Death Cab for Cutie has ever recorded, it’s don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to analyze why you dislike something. Don’t be afraid to admit you dislike something for stupid reasons. Don’t be afraid of letting your friends point out that you dislike something for stupid reasons. Don’t be afraid to say that you dislike things because you’re not confident in your own abilities. Most of all, don’t be afraid to look back, 15 years later, and say “I was wrong about X.” Tonight, in doing this I not only found an amazing band with several albums to explore, but I also learned something about myself. As I type this, I’m listening to the song “Your New Twin Sized Bed. This is strangely relevant…as the bridge states “It’s like we’re in some kind of hurry, to say Goodbye.” Don’t be in a hurry to say goodbye to music you don’t like, especially if you think you should like it. Maybe it will grow on you, or maybe you’re just being stubborn.