Ben Gibbard gets around, doesn’t he? His main project, Death Cab for Cutie has sold enough records to keep any indie front man happy but he then created an electronic side project, The Postal Service and made a gold record. But before most people knew DCFC, in the summer of 1999 Gibbard recorded what are to be his most eclectic, lo-fi songs under the moniker, All-Time Quarterback These songs were then grouped together and re-released onto one self titled CD. The concept of All-Time Quarterback certainly looks odd on paper. Ben Gibbard acts as the sole member, playing keyboards, bass, guitar, drums and of course singing. Whilst it looks like the ‘lineup’ of instruments Gibbard plays aren’t at all odd they are actually quite the opposite. Most of the tracks on ATQ are played solely on an old acoustic guitar that refuses to stay in tune, broken Casio keyboards and such. These performances weren’t tracked in L.A.’s top studio either. Gibbard recorded the majority of All-Time Quarterback’s only CD on either a four-track or on of those little CD player recording microphones. ATQ made three official releases: All-Time Quarterback in 1999, The Envelope Sessions also in 1999 and then this in 2002. This CD is actually more or less an ‘anthology’ containing some outtakes and the best songs off of the first two EPs, which are out of print.
There is no virtuosity on ATQ. No blistering guitar solos or slap bass wizardry or any of the like. Instead listeners are treated to the heart and soul of Ben Gibbard, sung atop pleasantly lo-fi music. The music is really fantastic at times despite lack of professional equipment and technicality. Some songs show hints at Gibbard’s next side project, the Postal Service with electronic blips and boops while others feature just Gibbard’s vocals and a horribly low quality guitar. The beautiful Cleveland
takes the latter’s style, crafting a pretty love song atop nothing but the crappiest guitar I have ever heard. A perfect example of the former of those two styles is Rules Broken
no drums are housed on the songs sans some Casio blips and fake snare hits, kind of like modern day Crunk. Intertwining guitar and snyth lines deliver an interesting melody that fits well under Gibbard’s vocals. The chorus to Rules Broken is just fantastic and I find myself humming it constantly. The lyrics on Rules Broken are clever but nothing to marvel over: And if we could break the rules that were already broken before we were born/ Then we could hold them to their guns cause we'd be a punk rock band too.
Ben Gibbard delivers performances under the name All-Time Quarterback that should be held high next his performances on Death Cab’s classics. His songwriting is (nearly) as good as it gets and really shows as un-glossy a look at his mind as possible. His voice is unaffected and most of the songs feature no production other than his own. The music whilst not amazing is easy to fall in love with. The album is short, 11 songs in under a half hour and comes highly recommended (from me) to anyone who likes his other works. A solid, 4/5 for sure.
-Dinner At Eight In The Suburbs- Possibly the only song without keyboards that features a “drum beat”.
-Cleveland- Beautiful lo-fi ballad
-Rules Broken- An electronic tinted indie pop of high quality.
-Sock Hop- A great, depressing lo-fi love song.
-Send Packing- The album closer and longest track is a beautiful Alt-Rock track with possibly the highest quality recording on the album.