Rock Roundup

Death Cab for Cutie Gets Angry

After its leader’s divorce and despite glossy new album the band is playing harder and angrier on its new tour.

By - Apr 27th, 2015 03:14 pm
Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie

Top Show: Death Cab For Cutie, Monday, May 4, at Riverside Theater

Artists who don’t overtly long for mass appeal tend to get into trouble when they fall in love with and marry people who already have mass appeal: when such unions fail, they throw the wrong kind of light on any art that follows. Witness Lyle Lovett with Julia Roberts or Arthur Miller with Marilyn Monroe.

Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard was dealing with his divorce from a cult-famous actress, Zooey Deschanel, when he got word of another parting: Chris Walla, his DCFC co-conspirator since the days, circa 1997, when the project was just Gibbard’s respite from another group, announced he was leaving the band before completion of the eighth and latest album, 2015’s Kintsugi.

That double-whammy could make a man retreat into the evidently inspirational music of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, but instead Gibbard and his fellow remaining bandmates finished a set of songs that are, even by this particular indie-rock group’s soft-spoken guidelines, smooth and even.

Producer Rich Costey, who has previously been behind the boards for Mew and Kimbra, sprays layers of New Wave gloss over Kintsugi, especially those songs, like “Ingénue” and “No Room in Frame,” that hint at Gibbard’s views on what happened with his ex-wife.

Reports from the recently begun tour indicate that Death Cab For Cutie has decided to let hidden or buried rawness—the stuff that bubbled up through 2003’s masterful Transatlanticism and heightened its heartbroken fury, self-loathing, and disappointment—come out onstage.

With two additional musicians standing in for Walla and beefing up the main trio, the band has been rocking harder, angrier, and for nearly two hours a night thus far. Perhaps both Gibbard and his band are adapting (from a musical standpoint) Philip Roth’s belief that whatever got them into this mess ought to get them out of it, too.


Friday, May 1: Nick Hakim at Pabst Pub, Pabst Theater

The time is too early and the evidence too thin to proclaim Nick Hakim the Next Big Thing for 2015: he didn’t truly get his music out there until last year, and that was in the form of two EPs, Where Will We Go, Pt. 1 and Where Will We Go, Pt. 2. Total number of tracks: nine.

On the evidence of those nine tracks, however, Hakim—a D.C. native, Brooklyn resident and son of Peruvian and Chilean parents—holds up beacons of potential as an R&B artiste capable of stirring M. Ward and other unusual influences into a hotpot of slow grooves and romantic impulses ranging from the sexual to the suicidal.

This show starts at 10:30 p.m., which seems an ideal time for Hakim.


Saturday, May 2: The Replacements at the Rave

Management for the Replacements has confirmed that the half-reunited—that is to say, with two original members and two replacements, hardy har—underground-rock band has recorded some new material in Massachusetts and its origin city of Minneapolis. It has also debuted at least one previously unheard song live:

Good for the Replacements, although I’m guessing it wasn’t the promise of new stuff that sold this show out so quickly or surfeited my Facebook with giddy posts. No, those were responses to hearing the stuff the band made from roughly the beginning of the 1980s to roughly the beginning of the 1990s, including this all-time classic:


Saturday, May 2: Terror Pigeon at Mad Planet

There is a cartoon penguin named Bad Badtz-Maru, a.k.a. Badtz-Maru, created by a Japanese company that apparently specializes in the creation and merchandising of cute characters. He is an exemplar of cuteness that is initially enchanting and then slowly, cumulatively disconcerting. He is the personification of cuteness overload.

Terror Pigeon, formerly Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt!, is like that, thanks to album titles like last year’s Live It Up Before You Die It Up!, and pop music that is more excitable than a roomful of caffeinated Trekkies surprised by George Takei, and more exciting than most pushbutton club music. To avoid the cuteness overload at this show, just dance.


Saturday, May 2: Turbo Fruits at Cactus Club

Jonas Stein, the singer and guitarist who leads Turbo Fruits, invites—probably by accident—comparisons to Strokes lead singer Julian Casablancas by singing through a layer of fuzz and as if he’s on the verge of simply collapsing from ennui and apathy. This semi-disengagement hasn’t always helped Strokes albums.

It works better on No Control, the fourth Turbo Fruits long-player, because Stein and his fellow Fruits goad each other with power-pop hooks as well as the attitude of 1970s stoners. There are as many grins as sneers pulling their upper lips toward their noses, and Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney almost invisibly maximizes the band’s balancing act of prettiness and dirt.

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