Death Cab For Cutie : The Photo Album

Excellent guitar-packed debut...

Seattle’s Death Cab For Cutie are merely the latest sign that indie

is no longer a pejorative term. Fiercely independent (they wouldn’t even sign

to ultra-hip label Jade Tree), and writers of intelligent, heartfelt lyrics,

you could even call them emo without fear of misclassification. Or you

could, if ‘The Photo Album’ wasn’t more punk in attitude than application.

So while guitars scribble wildly over ‘I Was A Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Blacking

Out The Friction’, they mainly favour a subtler approach that’s equal parts
Slint, early Mercury Rev, and prime REM.

The result is a slow-burning lo-fi tunefulness topped off with Ben Gibbard’s

extraordinary lyrics. Matching endearing scratchiness with detail-packed

tales more commonly found in short story collections, the pick of them –

‘Styrofoam Plates’ – tells a Raymond Carver-style story of the funeral of an

absent father who was more [I]”a donor of seeds to a poor single mother”[/I] than a


As intelligent, bittersweet, angular stuff, whether it’s alt.rock,

guitar-pop, or even emo is immaterial. Labels be damned – just call it great


Jim Alexander