Music

Death Cab for Cutie - "Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)" (Singles Going Steady)

Complete with the requisite soaring chorus and unobtrusive guitar lines, this is a comfortable, paint-by-numbers Ben Gibbard song.

Jared Skinner: Months after the release of their recent album Kintsugi, Death Cab For Cutie release the new animated video for "Good Help (Is Hard to Find)" off of the album. The wait was well worth it as this video is a wonderful, depressing and humorous satire of modern society. The video follows a normal worker-bee in an animated world, and we see him get imprinted by a star on his forehead, catapulting him to his 15 minutes of stardom. He becomes obsessed with the break from his monotonous rut and tries anything to desperately stay in the spotlight. Through this story we are treated to a pretty heavy dosage of themes including: what it means to be an individual, self-destruction for attention, mass cultural conformity and media obsession. Overall, a stellar video accompanied by a enjoyable tune. [8/10]

John Tryneski: At this point Death Cab is just doing what it does and you can take it or leave it. "Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)" could really be from any of their last few albums and it's a fine example of what the now Chris Walla-less band does these days. Both the song and video are melancholic about modern life without ever being specific enough emotionally to really feel meaningful while the music is totally devoid of any rough edges or non-shiny surfaces to take you out of Death's Cab's low-key lope. Complete with the requisite soaring chorus and unobtrusive guitar lines, this is a comfortable, paint-by-numbers Ben Gibbard song. It's hard to imagine anyone loving or hating this with any true passion and whether that's a backhanded compliment or an indictment of NPR-ization of modern indie rock I leave for the listen to decide. [5/10]

Kevin Korber: At the outset of their career, no one would have pegged Death Cab For Cutie to write taut, wiry songs about existential dread. It’s too little, too late, though. While it’s certainly an improvement on their simpering beginnings, “Good Help” is hampered by Ben Gibbard’s woefully earnest delivery and an arrangement that goes for hypnotic but ends up being repetitive. Kudos to them for finally pulling their gaze away from their navel, though. [5/10]

Emmanuel Elone: It's been a year since Death Cab for Cutie's last album, Kintsugi, yet "Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)" sounds as fresh and poppy as the day it did a year ago. Punchy drums accentuate the catchy guitar melody, and Ben Gibbard's voice feels as youthful and innocent as it did on Transatlanticism or even during his Postal Service days. This isn't the best song that he's ever made, but it's hard to compete with a catalog of music that includes an album like Give Up. Still, "Good Help (Is Hard to Find)" is a great indie rock song, and shows that Death Cab for Cutie is still a force to be reckoned with in the ever-growing indie rock scene. [7/10]

Ian King: Is this song really on Kintsugi? I streamed the album on NPR's website when it came out and don't remember hearing anything quite this good. It's track eight, you say? Huh, well, that's probably why. The tone is more suited to being one of those late energy-lifters that come right before the end of an album, where it will stick with you more than if it landed on the down-slope of the mid-album hump, like this did. Aside from this video's preaching about the perils of seeking attention (or is it a warning about getting a neck tattoo?), this is an easily hummable argument that DCFC aren't out of ideas yet. [6/10]

Chad Miller: I found the vocals slightly annoying, but the song itself is pretty good. The melody is decently cool, especially the "Only a fool gives it away" part, and the lyrics are occasionally interesting. There's really nothing that special here, but it's enjoyable nonetheless. [6/10]

Chris Ingalls: From what I know of Death Cab for Cutie, this is more upbeat than their usual wallowing, morose emo-pop. The danceable feel of this song is reminiscent of a lot of the '80s bands they probably grew up with. It's got the streamlined pop sheen of the Cars with the syncopated retro-indie groove of New Order or even the Pet Shop Boys. Plus, it's just a nice, hook-stuffed tune. Threw me for a loop, in a good way. [8/10]

Pryor Stroud: Punctuated by a slinking, arachnoid guitar riff that seems to oscillate between shadow and sunlight, "Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)" refracts Death Cab's penchant for sparklingly saccharine melodies through a 1975-esque funk-pop aesthetic. Lyrically, the song warns that unmitigated careerism and self-centeredness can leave one stranded alone once life takes a sudden turn, but Gibbard's sinuous, authentic vocal keeps the lyric from sounding too overly moralizing. The lyric, moreover, also recycles a potent symbol from the band's back catalogue. During the chorus, Gibbard counsels his interlocutor about the isolation that awaits him -- "There's a long, slow fade / To a darkened stage" -- and uses a familiar allegorical image to do so; which is to say, this "darkened stage" is immersed in the same impenetrable obscurity that reigned in "I Will Follow You Into the Dark", but now, for this track's selfish anti-hero, there's no one there to follow him into it. [6/10]

SCORE: 6.38

Director Spotlight: Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock helped to create the modern horror genre, the modern thriller, and the modern black comedy. He changed film, even as he was inventing new ways to approach it. Stay tuned through October as we present our collection of essays on the Master of Suspense.

Film

'Psycho': The Mother of All Horrors

Psycho stands out not only for being one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films, it is also one of his most influential. It has been a template and source material for an almost endless succession of later horror films, making it appropriate to identify it as the mother of all horror films.

Francesc Quilis
Film

The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti (By the Book)

With discussions of characters like Leon Ray Livingston (a.k.a. "A-No. 1"), credited with consolidating the entire system of hobo communication in the 1910s, and Kathy Zuckerman, better known as the surf icon "Gidget", Susan A. Phillips' lavishly illustrated The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti, excerpted here from Yale University Press, tells stories of small moments that collectively build into broad statements about power, memory, landscape, and history itself.

Susan A. Phillips
Books
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2018 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.