Ahh Death Cab… the Seattle flag bearers that seem so distant from the powerful dirge that took the world by storm 20 years ago, yet so Seattle. Their collections of pained, poetic melodies have garnered a respected following right from their debut LP Something about Airplanes in 1998. Over a decade on, Benjamin Gibbard and co. are an ever present. 2003’s Transatlanticism and 2005’s Plans further propelled the band towards the wider adulation their loyal following had held so dear with the dream-pop soaked single “Soul Meets Body” pleasantly inescapable. Forward over six years, two albums, numerous popular television soundtracks and a boom appearance on the film soundtrack to the (unspeakably shit)The Twilight Saga: New Moon with the haunting “Meet Me On The Equinox”.
Now, all that said and done there is a fearful grimace struck across my face as I click play on this collection of remixes plucked from 2011’s Codes and Keys. The artists involved are no less credentialed with the likes of Yeasayer, Unicorn Kid and Cut Copy engrained in the cross genre field of the indie-electronica movement. However, hope is restricted to the belief that pulling apart a Death Cab… track could expose further the melodrama that we’ve come to expect.
Sadly, this isn’t to be. Rac Maury’s opening track mix of “Some Boys” does from the outset exactly what I’d prayed it wouldn’t, thrusting the sped up vocal to the forefront unprotected from the smattering of interjecting samples. The mix itself holds merit, but with this offering of Gibbard’s voice layered over, it doesn’t. Luckily, Cut Copy’s respected instrumentation skills of their own bring a sense of timing back to rise the mood with their stand-out reworking of “Doors Unlocked and Open”. Here we find the vocals floating in and out of the tune’s conscience without detracting from either the lyric or the droning loop lending to the thought that Death Cab… have something further to explore.
While “You are a Tourist” (The 2 Bears) and “Underneath the Sycamore” (Dillon Francis) pass bye in the form of a disappointing mess of Daft Punk left overs and chipmonk chatter before Unicorn Kid return sanity to the air. “Unobstructed Views” lifts the drama of the keys based melody only to sink intermittently to bring Gibbard’s cryptic, dizzy lyric floating through with a great deal more credibility than it’s allowed on some of the other mixes.
Closing is Yeasayer’s approach on the title track which again reminds that LCD Soundsystem have left a gaping hole in a genre which holds such an important cross over power. While someone, somewhere, sitting in their bedroom will always decide to pull apart a track, work in some samples and put it out for the masses to lose themselves to at 4am, it’s the mother sound selection that will always prove critical. For Keys and Codes, Benjamin Gibbards voice is a constant make or break and it’s a real shame that several of the artists have overlooked how to utilise this tender strength.
– Ciarán Wilcox