The state, post-listen, is one of absolute numbness. Taste falls neither on the side of favour nor displeasure; how, exactly, did Death Cab For Cutie do a Maroon 5?
‘Course, Plans will have recent converts to Death Cab’s all-organs-on-sleeve outpourings in ecstatic emo’ed bliss – the record is so slick, so absolutely on-the-button production wise, that commercially-driven buyers looking for something a little more leftfield to supplement their Jem fetish will waffle endlessly about its charms for coffee mornings to come. Those of us that have taken this ride before though – back when the band’s bus wheels' tracking was a little wayward and the seats were peppered with cigarette burns – will find little to hold dear here.
Rarely is there a moment of unashamed joyousness a la ‘The Sound Of Settling’; likewise, only once does Ben Gibbard conjure again the rich imagery that characterised the appropriately titled The Photo Album (the band’s best album to date) – the penultimate ‘Brothers On A Hotel Bed’ is an echo of songs past, the high-shine gloss that tars much of Plans thinned to an acceptable translucency, allowing the sunshine-touched talent to positively shine through.
The above said, Plans begins impressively: the curtain-up brace of ‘Marching Bands Of Manhattan’ and ‘Soul Meets Body’ raise hopes to a level from where they can only ever be dashed; the former is probably this album’s true standout. By song five though the quality control has dipped dramatically, and the quartet have slipped from affecting tales of love and life gone all directions of awry into cliché-riddled dribble that not even the authors of the multi-billion-selling Songs About Some Girl I Slept With Once, Oh Boo Bloody Hoo would be proud to call their own. ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’, a half-hearted acoustic ballad about a whole lot of nothing much, and the unnecessarily overwrought ‘Someday You Will Be Loved’ require no attention from long-term aficionados whatsoever. They are, frankly, dire. Squared.
Which all leaves this bizarre aftertaste – one not of immediate dislike, but one that’s pretty far from appealing enough to warrant a second sampling. My advice: buy this for your US soap-watching sister (you know the show in question, but this isn't the_ NME_) and burn the few brief highlights onto your own best-of compilation.
4Mike Diver's Score