Death Cab for Cutie
Kintsugi


3.0
good

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
March 31st, 2015 | 163 replies


Release Date: 03/31/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Half measures.

I am the worst kind of flip-flopper. Of 2011’s Codes and Keys, I wrote that the record’s fatal flaw wasn’t in the band’s much ballyhooed change of musical direction, but rather that Ben Gibbard was the key ingredient missing: “Until Gibbard can harness this newfound happiness with the kind of lyrical flair his fans are used to, Death Cab remain in danger of being, well, just another indie band.” Cue the ungrateful commenters claiming Death Cab for Cutie had always been just another indie band, but don’t mind the schadenfreude – the Gibbard in such fine form on earlier Death Cab albums, that beautiful, caustic, self-destructive lyricist, was something to be treasured. Now comes Kintsugi, an album with a narrative that practically writes itself. Man and beautiful movie star break up; man stews in creative juices for years; man’s creative partner and longtime conspirator leaves band; band saddles album with painfully transparent title. What I wanted from Codes and Keys I have here, at least on the surface: pathos, Gibbard adrift, a band practically forced to try a new way of doing things. Why, then, does Kintsugi leave me in much the same way that I felt after Gibbard was beseeching me to stay young and go dancing"

As you’ve probably heard by now, kintsugi is a Japanese art form that involves repairing broken pottery by highlighting what is being repaired; essentially, glorifying the imperfections and flaws rather than hiding them. Opener “No Room in Frame” seems to set out that this will be the album’s aesthetic, and it does it brilliantly. Gibbard has always been a specific writer; maybe not on the finely detailed level of a Samson or a Darnielle, but you knew the little landmarks in his most loved songs such that they became almost a part of your own graying memories. “No Room in Frame” leaves nothing to the imagination – the writer is “disappeared like a trend / in the hum of the 5 in the early morning,” as he questions, “was I in your way / when the cameras turned to face you" No room in frame / for two.” Shots fired! Gibbard has often been criticized for the relative overtness of his writing, but here, it paints a damning picture, a clear (some would say obvious) storm of regret and hurt, yet appropriately the message is mixed, muddled. Is Gibbard blaming himself or his ex-wife for the gulf that widened between them" In the end, he seems resigned to sharing responsibility: “And I guess it’s not a failure we could help / and we’ll both go on to get lonely with someone else.” It’s a sighing realization that anyone who has been in a failed relationship can relate to.

“No Room in Frame” is the exception that proves the rule: Kintsugi is a record more content to lob up softballs than it is to go in for the kill. Likely the worst offender here is that song’s opposite number. Closer “Binary Sea” is hopelessly vague in both lyric and tone, saddled immediately by an undercooked metaphor, a shuffling dirge of a production choice and Gibbard’s unfortunately dramatic reading. It’s a companion piece to the worst of the meandering, lifeless songs that submarined Codes and Keys. The rest of the songs here track somewhere between the sort of catchy radio bait that Death Cab can do in their sleep (“The Ghosts of Beverly Drive”) to limp, self-plagiarizing drivel like “Hold No Guns.” It’s tough to discern whether Chris Walla, who announced his departure months before the album release, is the missing component, although he did contribute here and there. By all accounts, the band has been working together better than ever, and producer Rich Costey (Foster the People) gives Kintsugi the kind of confident depth and adept electronic touches that Codes and Keys fumbled with. Perhaps it’s the consistency that’s maddening, as it’s when the band breaks things down a bit – that drillbit of distorted guitar that roars into first single “Black Sun,” the hazy, druggy sheen of “El Dorado” – that the band are able to craft memorable highlights when Gibbard’s lyrics retreat into cliché. Even with the somewhat embarrassing “Good Help (Is So Hard to Find)”, with its Blondie riff and six-years-too-late electro-pop leanings, one can’t help but give credit to the band being game to try something new.

That I’m giving credit for noble failures speaks to a problem that Death Cab may no longer be equipped to solve. Gibbard and company remain supremely well qualified when it comes to the songwriting department. The spartan, gorgeous “You’ve Haunted Me All My Life”; “No Room in Frame”; the sad and nostalgic “Little Wanderer,” pouring out a tale of long distance love that is tragic in hindsight: these are classic Death Cab songs. As an album, though, Kintsugi suffers from many of the same flaws that have afflicted past releases, from a tendency to overthink arrangements to Gibbard’s more frequent relapses into trite turns of phrase and the occasional hint of immaturity. Maybe Kintsugi merely signals a difficult transition for both Gibbard and the band, and its title will prove apt. More likely, though, is a conclusion I’ve come to expect – Death Cab will always be capable of producing classic songs, but that elusive return to form in the shape of an album will be as fleeting as one of the romances in Gibbard’s writing.




Recent reviews by this author
Vansire Angel YouthGolden Features SECT
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever Hope DownsOkkervil River In The Rainbow Rain
Blood Cultures Happy BirthdayTaylor Swift Reputation
user ratings (270)
Chart.
3
good
other reviews of this album
1 of


Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2015


11979 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Little Wanderer" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io9ivuo4r6Q

toasterlights
March 31st 2015


22 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Very fair review. Loving the beginning of the record but it seems a bit too sparse in final stretch. "You've Haunted Me All My Life" is beautiful.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2015


17838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review, and agreed on all counts. The singles are the best on here

Digging: Thom Yorke - Suspiria

toasterlights
March 31st 2015


22 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I have a feeling this album will be shrugged off at first but people will come around to it with time.

Gyromania
March 31st 2015


25913 Comments


fuck..

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2015


11979 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

first half is far better than the second. although i don't even particularly like "Black Sun" so much as a single either

Gyromania
March 31st 2015


25913 Comments


i'm prob in the minority but i thought narrow stairs was excellent, but then they released codes and keys, which i felt mostly indifferent towards. i hoped they'd recover and start making awesome music again =[

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2015


11979 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nah man there's times I think Narrow Stairs is their best album

RadicalEd
March 31st 2015


9393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah Narrow stairs is my fav album by them as well. Excellent Review. "Black Sun" and "No Room in Frame" are pretty good. I dig some of the guitar work on this fur sure, but it's a pretty big letdown overall

ProjectFreak
March 31st 2015


3107 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm probably going to love this and eventually hate it, but Little Wanderer gets me every time. good work as always Klapman

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 31st 2015


28370 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I still haven't heard this. I really liked Narrow Stairs as well, so I do have faith that these guys can still put out something great.

Digging: Julia Holter - Aviary

Tunaboy45
March 31st 2015


16583 Comments


Maybe I'll check this, great review.

clander270
March 31st 2015


426 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Album is so boring, even all the singles. Definitely the worst thing they've released so far imo

RVAHC13
March 31st 2015


826 Comments


This upsets me

oahmed
March 31st 2015


81 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Agreed with everything you said, great review.

dbizzles
March 31st 2015


12357 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Good review.

This album was expectedly underwhelming, but does have a few sweet tracks.

Digging: El-Ahrairah - The Blessing

travisred
March 31st 2015


4 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Strong first half, dips off a little in the second half. Still connected with me more than Codes or NS.

twlichty
March 31st 2015


3791 Comments


Transatlantisism is their best, going to listen to this later today

YourDarkAffected
March 31st 2015


1832 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

For me this is just Codes and Keys Pt. 2, except Codes and Keys had St. Peter's Cathedral going for it.

trackbytrackreviews
March 31st 2015


3365 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

“Until Gibbard can harness this newfound happiness with the kind of lyrical flair his fans are used to, Death Cab remain in danger of being, well, just another indie band.”



Heh, this was the quote featured on wikipedia, though I'm guessing you already knew that



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy