Wednesday, October 11, 2006

death cab for cutie

I watched Drive Well Sleep Carefully tonight. Drive Well Sleep Carefully (Amazon), is a documentary that follows the band Death Cab for Cutie (myspace) during the final weeks of their 2004 North American tour. The film blends live footage from a dozen shows with scenes from the road and extensive band member interviews. It is entertaining (and it gives me a great reason to write about DCFC), but it could have been much better.

DCFC is a quartet formed in 1997 in Seattle by Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla. They established a unique art/pop sound and, as their fan base grew, they helped make Barsuk Records a major force on the indie scene. I first heard a DCFC song in the spring of 2000, and I have liked them more with each album since.

Justin Mitchell, the filmmaker, caught the right band at the right time. Their newest record (Transatlanticism) was breaking indie sales records, and DCFC was about to sign with Atlantic Records. Ben Gibbard was also enjoying great success with Jimmy Tamborello on a side project, The Postal Service. That album, Give Up (Amazon), was one of the best of 2003 (see my stuck in the cd player list on the main page) and it received much exposure. Unfortunately, neither of these topics was explored during the movie.

They guys in DCFC are nerds (in a good way), and they get along very well. They have thick rimmed glasses and wear short-sleeved shirts with ties. They don’t party very much and are always early for sound check. So, there was unlikely to be much inter-personal drama. Still, a deeper look at the economics of indie labels and internet promotion would have been interesting, as would have details on DCFC negotiations with the majors. Even more life on the road scenes (the tour bus, any extra promotion that they had to do, a meal here or there, some screaming fans, significant others?) would have made DWSC more unique.

DWSC does provide a nice introduction to the band''s music. The sound quality is pristine thanks to the band’s obsession with recording all of their shows to disk using a 16-track RADAR system, and the performances are good if not exploding with energy. You get some insight into the personalities of Ben, Chris, Nick and Jason and a few stories behind the songs, and the bonus material is solid. The highlight of the extras is an acoustic set recorded for Live 105 at the Metreon. They sing The New Year, Title and Registration, and Lightness.

So you can learn more about one of my favorite bands, here is a partial discography together with lots of links to album tracks via Barsuk and live bootlegs on

Plans (Atlantic, 2005) (Amazon)
I Will Follow You Into the Dark (live 2006-06-16)
Soul Meets Body (live 2006-02-12)

Transatlanticism (Barsuk, 2003) (
Title and Registration
The Sound of Settling (live 2004-10-17)

The Photo Album (Barsuk, 2001) (
A Movie Script Ending
Styrofoam Plates (live 2003-03-14)
Photobooth (live 2001-06-16)
I Was a Kaleidoscope (live 2002-03-01)

We Have the Facts and We Are Voting Yes (Barsuk, 2000) (
For What Reason
The Employment Pages (live 2004-10-17)
405 (live 2000-07-22)

Something About Airplanes (Barsuk, 1998) (
Champagne from a Paper Cup
Pictures in an Exhibition (live 2000-07-22)

DCFC will be performing at Shoreline for the Bridge School Benefit October 21 and 22. Visit their main site, their old label Barsuk and Epitonic for more download goodness.

Bonus link 1: Here Comes the Rain Again (a Eurythmics cover, live 2001-11-10)
Bonus link 2:
Bad Reputation (a Freedy Johnson cover, live 2004-10-17)
Bonus link 3: Download all of the excellent 2004-10-17 show from Pontiac, MI at