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Death Cab for Cutie

Directions

(Atlantic; US DVD: 11 Apr 2006; UK DVD: 11 Apr 2006)

The connection between Death Cab for Cutie and 50 Cent has rarely been explored. There have been mashups of Death Cab with Madonna, and even mashups of 50 and Tom Petty (entitled “Free Fiddy”), but so far the kings of indie-rock and the multi-platinum rapper have only been connected by appearing in the same magazines together (in different articles).  Yet it was Fiddy who had the idea to re-release his best selling sophomore album, The Massacre, with a DVD featuring a music video for every track. This was viewed as revolutionary, despite the fact that the Super Furry Animals beat him to the punch by five years (and one could argue Pink Floyd with The Wall before that). Yet only a few months after the half-dollar released his multimedia opus, the little indie band that could released its own.


Directions, the visual accompaniment to Ben Gibbard & Company’s platinum album Plans, is a fascinating little bugger. With minimal budgets and the constraint that the band could not be featured, it sounds like this could be a college film student’s nightmare of black-and-white visuals and clowns flipping pancakes in the name of art. Unfortunately, the disc starts off this way, as videos for the excellent “Marching Band of Manhattan” and “Soul Meets Body” though conceptually kinda interesting, ultimately live up to that crappy film student expectation (though props go to the singing dear head in the latter). Yet things pick up with “Summer Skin” (directed by the collective Lightborne), with children doing 9-to-5 desk jobs in the middle of a playground. In a similar vein, the middle-school orchestra tackling “Different Names for the Same Thing” is oddly sweet as well (and its version is a fun playable extra). But soon we are met with the mid-portion of the album with the best songs on it, as well as, appropriately, the best videos.


Death Cab for Cutie - Soul Meets Body


“I Will Follow You Into the Dark”, the saddest damn song Death Cab has ever written, is given a fitting treatment, as single frame pictures of two rabbits as friends really pull the heartstrings. On the opposite end, the rocking “Crooked Teeth”, with its cardboard-animated dragon, robot, and pirate, is the most whimsical of the bunch, and conceivably could get play on MTV (or at least MTV-U) as a completely rotatable video. We are also treated to an homage of Peter Gabriel’s revolutionary “Sledgehammer” video (“Your Heart is an Empty Room”), a story of kids living in an apocalyptic bomb shelter (“Stable Song”, featuring an epilogue almost as long as the song itself), and a video that is serious, beautiful, and a conceptual curveball that really has to be seen to be described (“What Sarah Said”). Only the video for “Brothers on a Hotel Bed” disappoints in the latter half… we never really needed to know what Stan Brackage would be like as a music video director.


Ultimately, the DVD accomplishes a unique goal: it makes the dull songs on the album actually seem interesting.  This music video experiment is never too serious or too wacky, and though some treatments are certainly better than others, this proves to be a trend that just might be worth keeping. Of the extras, the new song “Jealousy Rides With Me” is instantly forgettable, but the live footage of “Talking Like Turnstiles” is hilarious; a fan (Lance Bangs himself?) shouts out the title of the song until Gibbard and Co. play it, rushes on stage while they’re playing it, gets kicked out by security, breaks into their dressing room, and tries to repeat this process before the song is over (and screams out “again!” the second they’re done). Annoying people are funny.


Death Cab for Cutie - Crooked Teeth


Rating:

Evan Sawdey started contributing to PopMatters in late 2005, and has also had his work featured in publications such as SLUG Magazine, The Metro (U.K.), Soundvenue Magazine (Denmark), the Daily Dot, and multiple national newspapers. Evan has been a guest on RevotTV's "Revolt Live!" as well as WNYC's Soundcheck (an NPR affiliate), was the Executive Producer for the Good With Words: A Tribute to Benjamin Durdle album (available for free at GoodWithWordsAlbum.com), and wrote the liner notes for the 2011 re-release of Andre Cymone's hit 1985 album A.C. (Big Break Records), the 2012 re-release of 'Til Tuesday's 1985 debut Voices Carry (Hot Shot Records), and many others. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. You can follow him @SawdEye should you be so inclined.


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