Once upon a time we'd have been as excited (or as excited as it's possible to get) about a new Death Cab For Cutie record but since Chris Walla left I'm not exactly sure why they are still here. Perhaps Ben Gibbard's quite extraordinary fringe is the reason. It really is super-lush on the Verve-esque video for lead track 'Gold Rush' but that's as interesting as it all gets.
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Well what would you do if you were in Death Cab For Cutie? You haven't made a good record in years, your creative force, producer and guitarist has gone off on to work on other projects, your last video was basically a rerun of the Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony'. Yet there's good news to be had. Your singer still has a great indie rock fringe even at the age of 42 and 'Thank You For Today' is much better than the previous so so effort 'Kintsugi'.
So all is not lost especially with tracks like 'Summer Years' in the locker. Finally, I hear something that has the same sense of autumnal regret the band were once so great at. it's a lovely understated track that unfurls rather than shouts from the rooftops. It contains a magnificent unexpected chord change in the chorus of such depth that I was momentarily breathless. Like the suits the band wear these days it's expensively produced, each track here is scrubbed to bits but the best bits are those where you hear the bands original sound sneaking through. This doesn't include 'Gold Rush' which despite an interesting Gibbard-typical lyric about about going back to your home town and seeing how things have changed is just too damn funky and danceable to actually sound like Death Cab. Perhaps the band are better off using their natural propensity for regret to make sad stadium epics such as 'Hurricane' and 'When We Drive' which have more than a nod towards the sheeny widescreen heartland rock of War on Drugs. The latter in particular is like an ageing indie rock dad take on the Cars 'Drive'.
Despite some good moments, they rarely reach their earlier dizzy heights but there are worse ways to grow old than with Death Cab For Cutie. The closer the haunting piano led '60 and Punk' suggests "It's nothing elegant in being a drunk / It's nothing righteous being 60 and punk". Me, I'd prefer an American bungalow, quiet nights and Death Cab For Cutie soundtracking the slow march towards dust.
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