Thursday, August 03, 2006

Song of the Week

Back by semi-popular demand:

Actual Original Content!

Back by a Wave of Staid Disinterest:

The Song of the Week!

This week....Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"

First let me begin by saying that this won't be easy. I'm not a Death Cab fan. I resent their music. I resent their influence. I very nearly hate their fans. I prefer my rock bands with, um, at least a capacity for rock; I prefer my rock songs with at least a hint of energy; and I take my lyrics a solid dose of self-awareness. For these reasons and more (just look at that picture and tell me those guys don't drink Zima), I ain't on the Death Cab bandwagon. I'm not steering the back. I'm not even at the parade.

And that's why I begrudgingly include them in my Songs of the Week. Occasionally a tepid band writes an undeniably great song, and "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" is the type of brilliance even the most rabid antifans can't--or shouldn't--deny.

Although the song is lyrically intensive, it begins with the full musical cadence, calling attention to the most important aspects of the chord progression. This sets the foundation for the song's truly remarkable lyric, a loose narrative that works more closely around a single conceit than an extended metaphor or even isolated imagery. At its core, the song is about a relationship's struggle with selflessness and codependency. The refrain--"I will follow you into the dark"--is a statement of courage and tremendous anxiety, as though our narrative voice is committed to living any life, good or bad, with this woman. That trepidation is underscored by a brief shift to minor mode on "follow you," before finally resolving on the tonic at "dark." That single musical phrase embodies the song's conflict: is anything the "right thing" if it has a potentially worse outcome?

The one deviation from the song's basic structure comes at the end of the final verse: "We'll hold each other soon/In the blackest of rooms." At "rooms," the melody sails into falsetto, triumphant yet wavering; he's made his decision, but he's not sure it's for the best.

The success of the song lies in the simplicity of the melody, the careful composition of the chord progression, and the multi-dimensionality of the lyric--at once profoundly sad, darkly humorous, inventive, and winningly good-natured.

Vicious as Roman rule,
Chris

6 comments:

elizabeth said...

So, when I opened the page, I got all excited because I saw a picture of Death Cab, who happen to be one of my very favorite bands, and I was like "Oh hooray, Chris likes them too" and then I started reading. I'm pleased that you like this particular song; it's good, and it makes me a little sad, but I don't think it's their best. Regardless, how can you dislike them so much? And how can you very nearly hate their fans? I fall into that category, FYI. It took me a long time to warm up to their style, but I finally did; I had to listen to a lot of their old stuff (pre-Transatlanicism stuff is my favorite) before I really got into them. It sort of hurts my heart that you harbor such animosity toward them. But hey, to each his own. I just felt I couldn't let that go without defending them a little bit.

Concession: I suppose I can understand why you very nearly hate their fans. I have a few issues with the indie-hipster fans who are just too cool for the masses; I dislike them almost as much as I dislike all the stinkin "scene" kids. However, not all DCFC fans fit into that neat little category, so please don't hate us all (or me at least).

elizabeth said...

ALSO, they don't drink Zima (does anyone?). At least they didn't when they played in Nashville last year (which happened to be on my birthday. I know that is completely irrelevant but I love my birthday, and I had to advertise for it). So there.

ross k. hates you said...

Nice work on the ZIMA crack--those are fightin' words around here. You totally dissed those peckerwoods.

Yeah, I don't really give a fuck about Death Cab either. They make me wish I had come up with the "Your Band Sucks" T-shirt and were now making bank off it. What would be tight is if they opened for, like, Slayer, and were then sacrificed to the dark lords of the underworld as part of the show. Raw meat with lots of juicy, whiny fat for all the hungry metal fans. Tears of unfathomable sadness, yummy! yummy!

Chris Milam said...

Here's why: Death Cab is either lying to you, or they're ripping Weezer off. It's one or the other, and neither is really honest:

1) No thirty-something man in Lisa Loeb-rims can write "I'm thinking it's a sign/the freckles on our nose do things/and my bassist likes to whine" or whatever that lyric is and take it seriously. It's either tongue-in-cheek, which means he's laughing at thirteen year olds that think it speaks to them OR...

2) He's doing some ultra-ironic, Rivers Cuomo-influenced dweeb dance, which has already gotten tiresome from Rivers Cuomo. I don't need it from Death Cab. At least Weezer rocks when they drown in self-parody.

That said, what you like is what you like, and I ain't putting anybody's tastes down. But you asked why I don't like them, and that's most of the reason why.

Meanwhile, arguably the worst insult I've ever heard was from a guy that said, "Go back to drinking Zimas in your mother's garage." I thought it was Shakespearean. I'd have quoted it directly, but I'm pretty sure Mrs. Death Cab kicked the boys out of the garage nineteen years ago...in their early thirties.

But hey, they'll always have that OC appearance...

Cricket said...

I'm not a Death Cab fan. I resent their music. I resent their influence. I very nearly hate their fans. I prefer my rock bands with, um, at least a capacity for rock; I prefer my rock songs with at least a hint of energy; and I take my lyrics a solid dose of self-awareness.

I agree with this 100%, though I have to say, I actually like a good 60% of "Plans." I think over all it sounds more like the Postal Service than previous Death Cab records, and I certainly like it despite myself.

Mimi said...

I'll have you know that the first season of The O.C. ruled.

And, also, Postal Service is much better than Death Cab.

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