Review Summary: Give Up has a good amount of originality that makes some of its songs truly brilliant. However, the other songs have serious songwriting flaws that make this album grate on your nerves after a while.
When I first actually heard the Postal Service, it was in the background at a candlelit coffee house set up in a basketball court and it was playing over the P.A. system. (long story there) In that setting, while I was chatting with friends and enjoying my strawberry-banana smoothie and Latte Americano, it was quite pleasant and relaxing-something that could be enjoyed without thinking about it, and which stimulated the carefree attitude of that situation.
However, after obtaining the Postal Service LP and giving it a critical listen, I've also found that the above situation is my preferred way of hearing it. Being a huge Death Cab fan, I was excited to know that all the songs were written (or at least co-written) by Indie rock genius Ben Gibbard. And being somewhat a fan of electronic (or at least electronic-supported) music, I thought that Give Up would suit my tastes perfectly. Now, after listening to it, I really don't understand the wide public appeal the Postal Service has found.
To be fair, there are no fewer than 4 songs on here to which I would give individual scores of 3.5 to 5. The opening track, "The District Sleeps Tonight", is simply brilliant, and the single "Such Great Heights" carries the trend with lovely lyrics and music. "Clark Gable" is also a decent song, with a whimsical yet effective hook on both guitar and electronic programming. Finally, "This Place is a Prison" is just short of masterpiece, with a spectacularly building verse that disintigrates into a simmering outro. Ben Gibbard's lyrics aren't as good as his Death Cab for Cutie lyrics (and understandably so) but they are still worlds above average. "Sleeping In", while very weak and repetitive musically, carries some great and down-to-earth lyrics that border on political. Another of the interesting quirks about this album is the occasional presence of female backing vocals. They always come in at just the right time to give the song emotional value and have a very soothing effect overall.
Yet, with all these points going for it, Give Up has one simple flaw that practically throws the good down on its face: songwriting. Death Cab fans: think with me. Remember the song Transatlanticism" There's a point in that (awesome) song where the guitar riff plays about 15 times and by the end you're just thinking "come on just get on with the song". Fortunately, in that instance, the song was wonderfully saved by a spectacular climax that made you forget the repetitive measures before. Give Up has the repetitiveness, but no creative outbursts that redeem the songs. "Natural Anthem" drags on and on while going nowhere in particular, and "Brand New Colony" has a nice hook in its bassline but destroys it by beating it in the face over and over.
In the end, Give Up has a few excellent songs that save it from total mediocrity. The four I mentioned are well worth your time and hard disc space. The rest fall by the wayside due to simple songwriting flaws that seriously impede the emotion they strive to communicate. It goes without saying you should at least download the 4 keepers, but I wouldn't reccomend a full purchase of this album.