Death Cab for Cutie makes sweet, even-tempered music that makes you feel warm and fuzzy -- like nuzzling a big fluffy cat while bathing in the late afternoon sunbeams. Once you get past some of the more, ahem, cutesy aspects of the band (if you scroll hard through all your mental pop/film/culture trivia detritus, you'll come up with the somewhat hip source of the group name, but it's still an unfortunate choice -- plus, the label logo of a cute little puppy clenching a Frisbee in its jaw doesn't help), there's a talented combo lurking, eager to twang your heartstrings whether you're a love-starved lad with "E-M-O" branded on the forehead or just your garden-variety, only slightly socially maladjusted, indie-pop fan.
This EP is a touring stopgap the quartet put together following the release of the full-length We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes earlier this year. A couple of alternate versions of tunes from that record turn up: "Company Calls Epilogue," a trudging, echo-laden number that sounds like a dead ringer for one of Guided by Voices' moodier outtakes; and "405," done up with the sort of acoustic spryness that once marked George Harrison's finer (think "Here Comes the Sun") moments. But it's the trio of new compositions that gives the EP must-hear status, effortlessly elaborating upon its predecessors' strengths. "Song for Kelly Huckaby" is imbued with a crucial crunch 'n' swoon, and is probably the only emo-ish number currently available boasting the presence of a Mellotron (Prog-emo? Premo? Emog?). "Photobooth" is a bittersweet remembrance of a summertime affair whose arrangement is, contrastingly, uplifting and incandescent, full of jangles. And the subtle Brian Wilson shadings, both lyrically and sonically, of "Technicolor Girls" have a kind of geek-love quality that's hard for a pop maven to resist.
Speaking of love, what, indeed, is the "forbidden love" referenced in the EP's title? Is it the kind that South Park's Cartman touched upon during his notorious encounter with NAMBLA? Could it be something deeper, given the psychological-cum-dysfunctional underpinnings of emo? Or perhaps it's simply an affinity for and alignment with the kind of gentle, unassuming pop that's had sand kicked in its face during the dick-waving ascendancy of mook-rock and rap-metal.
Death Cab for Cutie
Nita's Hideaway in Tempe
Scheduled to perform with the Promise Ring, Pedro the Lion, and Sean Na Na on Wednesday, November 1. Showtime is 8 p.m.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Whatever the case, one thing's for sure: Death Cab for Cutie makes pure pop for miaow people.