Death Cab For Cutie
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If you were to label Death Cab For Cutie fans, it’d have to be as 'resourceful'. Despite the band’s forthcoming sixth full album, Narrow Stairs_, being a covetously-kept secret by label and band alike, the record was finally leaked a few days ago – only a week in advance of its street date. Already however, the majority of the packed out Camden Electric Ballroom seems to have made the album well-known to themselves; certainly enough to cheer at the announcement of new songs and already throw back key lyrics.
And there are a good handful of new songs played tonight, the ‘intimate’ surroundings of the 1100-capacity Electric Ballroom proving a good match for the muscular guitars and bass that characterise the new record. Shorn of his usually ever-present thick glasses, singer Ben Gibbard looks rather dynamic and a tad handsome on stage, brimming with confidence as six new songs are dispatched. Opener ‘Bixby Canyon Bridge’ acts as a statement of intent; trailing guitars, pounding drums and suitably glass half-full lyrics combine to create an atmospheric, scene-setting opener. The best of those played tonight are 'Grapevine Fires' and 'Long Division'; the former a melodic, almost folksy tale that is introduced as “a true story” which charms and lulls in equal measure, the latter a fuzz-laden driving pop song given a metallic twinge by Chris Walla, full of tumbling choruses and crackling analogue synth. It’s momentous-sounding and hints towards the large arenas that the band probably hope to be filling over the next twelve months – at least in their homeland.
The entire show has a celebratory air about it; there are no crossed arms or furrowed brows, any negativity replaced by happy expectancy and the quiet hope that the quartet will remember to give the crowd enough older material to fill their bellies. And, like the seasoned, professional pros they now are, the band do so. Rationing out tracks from their previous releases inbetween new songs, and dropping in enough anthems to gives themselves imperious momentum. The Plans-era double whammy of ‘Soul Meets Body’ and a stripped-down ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’ - which was dedicated "to a friend who’s had a tough month and has a big day today – Barack" - have already become anthems, while _Transatlanticism favourites ‘The New Year’, ‘Title & Registration’ and ‘The Sound Of Settling’ were arguably the most well-received of the night. For the more ardent of Death Cabbers and to avoid accusations of being too foward-looking, there was a chance to holler along to ‘Photobooth’ and ‘A Movie Script Ending’.
Of course, it’s easy to keep a highly partisan - devotional, even - crowd in the palm of your hand when you’re playing relatively small venues like the Electric Ballroom. Death Cab know that the bigger tests lie ahead, as they attempt to capitalise on their unexpected popularity. In Narrow Stairs, they have a record that is capable of transcending their current fanbase into a wider audience, but there will be inevitable pitfalls along the way, as the band fight with the pressures of TV, radio and an easily-turned indier-than-thou hardcore pool of fans. Still, they’ve got this far against all odds, and who would bet against these driven fellows going all the way?
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