Quick Review (LP): You Can Play These Songs With Chords by Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
You Can Play These Songs With Chords
Elsinor; 1997 (Barsuk; 2003)

My Rating: C (51/100)

Best Tracks: "President of What?", "Hindsight", "That’s Incentive", "Army Corps of Architects"

DCFC in embryonic form…


  • I prefer this early version of "President of What?" to the version released on Something About Airplanes.
  • The power-pop influences really stand-out here. I detect significant influence from the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet. Additionally, tracks like "Hindsight" display an affinity for the early, lo-fi work of PNW heroes like Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. Lastly, there’s a bit of Sebadoh in the mix for sure.
  • "That’s Incentive" is a cool bass-heavy sad-punk cut, although I’m certainly happy this wasn’t the main direction the band took.
  • The whole thing with throwing samples into songs as bridges is an annoying practice that I’m glad died away after the first album.
  • The most impressive thing about this early album is that its not all that impressive. Gibbard would certainly grow as a songwriter in the years to come.
  • BARSUK EDITION TRACKS: Only "Army Corps of Architects" is truly great among the extra tracks here, and to my knowledge it was was recorded far later in the band’s career. It reminds me a great deal of some of Modest Mouse’s great early singles, such as "Broke."

Cohesion (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (3/5)
Concept (3.5/5)
Songs (3.5/5)