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You Can Play These Songs With Chords

Death Cab For Cutie
You Can Play These Songs With Chords

If you're a fan of the group Death Cab For Cutie, and wondering when in the hell they're going to release their next album (or if they're even going to release anything else), take heart in knowing that the group (if they are still indeed a group) feels your pain and isn't about to leave you high and dry. In addition to the reisssue release of the early Ben Gibbard project All Time Quarterback, the group has now cultivated this 18-track, 62-minute release of older material. 8 songs are from pre-group duo of Gibbard and Chris Walla with the same title as this release, and the remainder are comprised of other early unreleased tracks, b-sides, and rare 7" releases.

Musically, the first 8 tracks on the release are sort of a stripped-down, rough-edged batch of tracks that you'd expect to hear from the group and the group (and 5 of them were then re-recorded and fleshed-out a bit with the full incarnation of the group for their Something About Airplanes release). There are a lot of little slightly playful touches, like found-sound samples and other little things that seemed to bleed through the recording process. They provide a nice glimpse of the group at that period, but the real fun lies in the remainder of tracks on the release.

While the other 10 tracks are from a slightly wider timeframe (3 years), that sort of loose feel is what adds to the enjoyment, even if they're mostly pretty rough around the edges. The group pulls out a 2-minute pop-punk cover of Morrissey's "This Charming Man," and despite the lyrical gaffs and the fact you can turn on commercial radio nearly any time these days and hear something almost exactly the same, those with at least a passing weakness for the Moz (as I do) will find some humour in it. "Tomorrow" is the sort of track that most bands would simply leave off such a compilation for embarassment, but it plays out here in all it's cheesy 80's glory (sort of a lo-fi indie rock Human League ode). Likewise is the cut-up tape experiment of "Flustered/Hey Tomcat!" which honestly doesn't sound like anything the group has ever done or probably will ever do again. Perhaps someone in the group found divine inspiration after hearing a cut of Slabco wax.

Later on in the batch of remaining 10, things get back to closer from what you'd expect from the group, including the excellent, slow-burner "Song For Kelly Huckaby," which was also subsequently re-recorded and released on an EP in 2000. For better or worse, Death Cab For Cutie seems to be one of those groups willing to get a majority of their material out there, warts and all. Like the aforementioned All Time Quarterback release, a compilation like this is mainly created with already-established fans of the group in mind, as it's much more unpolished and unrefined and their 'true' releases. As mentioned above, there are little moments of joy for most people who would hear it, but it will stick a little better for listeners with a bit of history with the group.

Rating: 6.5