Landmark Piece – Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism Ten Years Later

Bet that didn’t hurt as bad as “Title and Registration” did the first time…

TEN YEARS is a long damn time, internet. Yet it has been that long and some change since Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla released Transatlanticism, Death Cab for Cutie’s fourth, best*, and certainly most famous-est LP. When albums that enjoyed as much critical success (and spots on The O.C. OST) as Transatlanticism did turn ten, a deep yearning to revisit them spontaneously springs into existence. Like salmon summoned upstream to bust a nut one last time, invisible forces compel us to look back at decade-old albums despite our better judgment. Unlike salmon however, who individually embrace destruction to guarantee the survival of their species, the purpose of reexamining aged music is much less obvious.

Well shit. What are we going to talk about then?

So Death Cab is re-releasing Transatlanticism on vinyl with some old demos of key tracks on .mp3, but otherwise sans frills, fancy packaging in the shape of a bummed out raven, or other common excuses for a money grab. This is a great thing for us knaves whose best access to music in 2003 was a deadly game called Kazaa, wherein one attempted to download albums piecemeal while blindly hoping that you didn’t catch a life-ruining virus in the process. The risk/reward ratio was tipped just enough to keep you rolling the dice on music you normally wouldn’t listen to.** In retrospect it was an effective if abstract form of sex education. Even if you had the CD back then, you know its long been scratched to high Hell by now from thousands of plays. Or stolen out of your best friend’s pick-up by some junkies. Or smashed by a vindictive girlfriend who was awful but used the most delightful coconut-scented pomade.

Damn. Nosetalgia  Nostalgia pangs hittin’ hard.

I could go through Transatlanticism song by song and reassess each, but my towering stack of memories associated with them would drown my thoughts in sepiatic wistfulness. I bet you have a big stack of memories on the subject too, so even if I’d never heard it before, my uncut opinion would be less than useful. I suppose we could analyze DCFC’s effect on the direction of mid-aughts indie-rock/pop in broad strokes, but we all bore witness to the trends as they were developing. In this particular case I’d wager those who viewed the genre history in real time are disinclined to relive it, as seeing Death Cab’s commercial rise and fade-to-black back then was quite enough. Then there’s the nostalgia itself– the temptation to make relate-able visions of starry, feet on the dashboard nights spent carving out tiny havens of existence. Sounds like verbal Instagram, no?

Normally I’d be waving my hand Obi-Wan-style while counseling, “this isn’t the trip down memory lane that you’re looking for,” but this time I find myself unable to. For LPs as historically meaningful as Transatlanticism, there’s an inexplicable and possibly irrational “do it for the Gipper” feeling that demands one last listen. Vinyl, digital, or pure recollection, Imma have to give it a final spin. Maybe I’ll buy an Olde English 800 for Olde times’ sake, stash it in a Dillinger Escape Plan hoodie, and go drink it in a drainage ditch while listening. Maybe.

As for what happens before, during, and after, Imma keep it to myself.

Thanks as always for lending an ear to the Cacophonous Caverns of the Moist Graffiti, and we’ll be back next week with a startling exposé on the thriving (and hilarious) Instagram drug trade (is purple kush a filter?), some startlingly poignant album reviews, and some haikus that’ll drive a samurai to seppuku.

One Love,
Dr. Socktopus

*If you purists with the thick-striped polo sweaters want to try to convince me that Something About Airplanes or The Photo Album are better, meet me at the playground at 4:30. I’ll be the one with the ripped-up North Face with the sleeves rolled up. We can beef and then share a pack of Natural American Spirits for old times’ sake.

**E.g. “Sigur Ros b-sides and live performances” (9.3 gb), “The Complete DJ Screw Discography,” (11 gb), etc.

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