It goes without saying that I am one of those people that considers himself a Monkees fanatic. I have every album in various deluxe editions that have been released over the years. On lesser albums I’ve sifted through the filler to find the gems (there are not too many lesser albums though.) John Lennon may be one of my musical idols, but sometimes I just prefer to listen to The Monkees over The Beatles. Those late 60’s albums by the “Prefab Four” stand up to anything their peers were putting out at the time. Live, I’ve never seen all 4 at the same time. In 1997 I saw Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork in Valley Forge, PA for the Justus tour. In 2012 I saw Micky Dolenz solo at a small casino just weeks after Davy Jones passed away. And in 2013 I saw Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork in downtown Seattle. All shows were memorable and expertly performed – the band members have come a long way from their origins as a make-believe band put together for a television show. A few months ago it was announced that The Monkees would be releasing a new album for their 50th anniversary. I wondered – would this be like The Beach Boys album from a few years ago (I can’t remember anything from that one) or would it be something special? The fact that the project was being produced by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger gave me hope – I love Fountains of Wayne’s unique power pop perspective.
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
Up through 2003’s Transatlanticism, Bellingham, WA’s Death Cab For Cutie held near universal hipster acclaim. A perfect merging of Pac NW aggression and emo inspired angst, the band slotted nicely into the early 00’s indie elitist aesthetic. That seemed to change with the major label release of their 2005 album Plans. The band didn’t alter their sound too much, yet seemed to lose some of the underground fans who had helped them breakthrough to the mainstream. No matter, the band gained even more fans. For me personally, Plans was almost a perfect album all the way through. The single I Will Follow You into the Dark touches upon the afterlife, connecting with loved ones, and the feeling of trying to find some sort of spiritual peace. It isn’t necessarily a romantic love – it could be the deep bond of friendship or that special connection you have with someone. An acoustic lament, it is my favorite song from the album. Curiously, the song was one of Death Cab For Cutie’s lowest charting singles, but their highest selling. Strange fact – the 2012 indie film Into The Dark starring Mischa Barton (The OC) was named after this song. Lyrically, the song is one of the strongest the band has ever offered, in particular the opening verse. “Love of mine, some day you will die / But I’ll be close behind / I’ll follow you into the dark / No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white / Just our hands clasped so tight / Waiting for the hint of a spark”. I finally had a chance to see this song performed live some years ago in Everett, WA (opening for Neil Young), and it was as glorious as the video embedded below.
I’ll probably repeat myself many, many times over the course of my reviews when it comes to one topic that puzzles me – the term “hipster”. What does it mean? What does it denote? I’m still not certain, even after reading about how I live in the hipster capital of the United States (Yes, Seattle beats out a few other cities I thought would be ahead of us). Death Cab for Cutie were considered an up and coming indie band up through 2003’s Transatlanticism. This, along with The Postal Service‘s Give Up (Benjamin Gibbard’s side project with Dntel’s Jimmy Tamborello, also released in 2003) appears to have been the peak of anything about Death Cab for Cutie appearing hip. From there, the band adopted mass acceptance which in turn turned the hipsters against them. I’ve liked or loved everything they’ve done though, and I approached the news of a solo Benjamin Gibbard album with curiosity – how would it differ from the band’s albums?