Death Cab for Cutie have reached a state of contradiction. In essence, the band is “mainstream indie.” They still maintain their well-known indie pop sound, but they now stand as one of the more popular bands around. Due to constant advertising in appearances on shows like the OC, Death Cab for Cutie constantly gets bigger and bigger. However, back at the turn of the century, Death Cab were still a relatively unknown band searching for success. We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes finds Death Cab for Cutie with ambition but also trouble. Nathan Good, the original drummer for the band, left during the recording of the album, leaving singer Ben Gibbard to play drums on most of the tracks.
On this album, Death Cab for Cutie was:
Benjamin Gibbard - vocals, Bullets, drums, percussion, Casiotone, organ
Nicholas Harmer - bass
Christopher Walla - Telecaster, electric piano, backing vocals, percussion, glockenspiel, samples
Nathan Good - drums on "The Employment Pages" and "Company Calls Epilogue"
People recognize Death Cab for Cutie for their slow, depressing ballads perfect for teenage soap operas like the OC. We Have the Facts finds the band developing that sound but also shows a few different sides of most specifically lyricist Benjamin Gibbard. For most of the album, the band falls in their comfort zone of slow tempos with simple guitar licks overtop and Ben Gibbard’s melancholic vocals singing a sad story. Christopher Walla’s guitar riffs usually arpeggiate through the chord progression while Nick Harmer makes a counter melodic bassline. With Gibbard being the drummer and an inexperienced one at that, the drums are nothing special. He just lays down the necessary rock beat and sloppily fills where needed. The departure of Good really hurts the album, as his appearance on the few tracks on this album makes a difference. The Employment Pages
sticks out as one of the best typical Death Cab songs on this album. Good plays some incredibly tasteful drums, although a brush kit might be more ample. Walla’s typical simple guitar suits Gibbard’s relieving tone of voice perfectly. Without paying attention to the lyrics, Gibbard just sounds like he is moving on from a difficult problem, especially in the sigh of “Ah ha ha.”
However, other songs show another side of Gibbard, including For What Reason
. The tempo picks up a bit and showcases some of Gibbard’s best drumming and lyrics. His lyrics are soaked in bitterness, some of his simplest and angriest lyrics ever. “I will hold a candle up to you, to singe your skin. Brace yourself, I’m bent with bitterness. We can’t forsee.” The song fails to reach 3 minutes, and that works out to be better for the song. It conveys the intended message excellently and never tires out or gets old. Musically, other songs get more aggressive, most noticeably Company Calls
. The song starts off restrained enough yet still uptempo. However, the chorus picks up intensity, although the drums lack in the energy, half because of Gibbard and half because of the production. The last reprise of the chorus brings the guitars distorted and everything descends chromatically. Unfortunately, Death Cab never takes the idea further, ending the song abruptly.
This album contains more than a few flaws. As stated, Ben Gibbard’s drumming is lackluster, sometimes hammering the snare way too hard for its own good and other times just playing sloppily. Another issue, although only appearing on a few songs, is the production. Guitarist (among other instruments) Christopher Walla produced the album, and sometimes fails to make the climaxes sound climatic. This is most noticeable in the closer, Scientist Studies
. The song grows and comes back down quite a few times with somewhat of a success. However, at the loudest moment of the song, the mix becomes terrible. The tonality of the band dies and the Gibbard’s huge snare and cymbal accents overshadow the entire band. Variety serves as another issue with the album. Many songs take on the slow ballad style that Death Cab is so well-known for, and the little variety the album offers hardly serves as much of a break. Sure, every slower song is an enjoyable listen but when stringed together everything just meshes together.
Getting past the flaws, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes serves as a relaxing listen in short spans. However, the album is not good to listen from start to finish. The album is simply a stepping stone that leads to the much better executed indie pop shown on later efforts such as Transatlanticism. The album is not a place to start for those looking to get into the Death Cab for Cutie, and really should be a secondary purchase once the later albums are in your possession.
The Employment Pages
For What Reason