Quick Review (LP): Something About Airplanes by Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
Something About Airplanes
Barsuk; 1998

My Rating: B (66/100)

Best Tracks: "Bend to Squares", "President of What?", "Pictures In An Exhibition",
"Amputations"

For those about to mope…

TRACK NOTES

  • Love "Bend to Squares." That mournful cello makes this one of the more definitive opening tracks that come to mind.
  • Prefer the Chords version of "President of What?", but this one is decent enough. Cool tune regardless. The keyboard sounds niftier here.
  • "Champagne from a Paper Cup" gets the mood right, clouded, confused, and dark.
  • "Your Bruise" continues the moody vibe. Gibbard’s vocals are great there.
  • On "Pictures In An Exhibition", Death Cab threatens a pulse. 
  • "Sleep Spent" reminds me of the work of the band Retsin, especially The Sweet Luck of Amaryllis. Pleasant, rainy day, sleepy sort of vibe.
  • "The Face That Launched 1000 Sh*ts" is a waste.
  • "Amputations" = muy bueno. Great guitar work there, even if it is a little amateurish. Solid drumming too.
  • "Fake Frowns" is pretty good. I like the breakdown in the middle. Good that they are picking up the tempo later in the record.
  • "Line of Best Fit" is dull. Not a great closer, or maybe too typical?

ALBUM NOTES

  • There’s a certain mopey glory here, something like a bedroom version of The Smiths’ debut.
  • Sounds like Seattle, except not like grunge. In case you were wondering, Sunny Day Real Estate is the missing link between these guys and Pearl Jam.
  • I’d say this album’s a grower. It doesn’t grab you as quick as some of their later material (say, Transatlanticism), but the songs are actually quite strong, and Chris Walla has an ear for atmosphere.
  • In keeping with their debut EP, this reminds me a lot of Modest Mouse’s early stuff for UP Records, which is high praise. The main difference is the urban dreams versus Modest Mouse’s backwoods existentialism.
  • All in all, while the record hints at the great things that were to come (particularly in the lyrical and atmospheric departments), this is a debut offering from a band that is still finding its way. Nothing wrong with that.
  • DELUXE EDITION: "There’s lots of people here…" The band’s first show sounds great. Nice Smiths cover. "State Street Residential" is nice live. Also, I wonder who The Revolutionary Hydra are, and how funny it must feel to hear themselves headlining on the back of Death Cab as an opening act back in the day.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4/5)

Peel-ology: Rodan’s 1994 BBC Session

Peel-ology is where I write about some or another Peel session. The Peel session has special importance for me because of the “mystique” that surrounds it. Oftentimes, bands come to the Peel session with a small set of songs that have never seen official release. For fans of arcane indie rock, that’s like the Holy Grail…

rodan (e wolf) Rodan’s 1994 Peel session holds a special place in my heart. On one hand, it was my introduction to the work of John Peel, the first time I had ever heard of a “Peel” session at all. On the other hand, it is the only hint of what one of my all-time favorite bands might have sounded like on their second LP. While all of Rodan’s members went on to have prolific careers in other musical ventures (including the Mueller/Noble vehicle Shipping News), there was a definite magic realized by Jason Noble, Jeff Mueller, Tara Jane O’Neill, and Kevin Coultas on their Bob Weston produced debut Rusty.

  • “Sangre” leads things off. It’s a slow, brooding, almost meditative track, featuring O’Neill’s distinctively moaning vocals and some excellent high-fret guitar work from Jason Noble. I swear, when this song kicks in, I see thunder. That’s the only way I know how to put it.
  • “Big Things, Little Things” might be the closest Rodan ever came to “poppy”, figuring brightly between the other two tracks here. I love the bass work here. In my book, TJ is one of the best indie bassists of all time.
  • For all the greatness of the other tracks, “Before the Train” most successfully captures what made this band great. A 10-minute-plus instrumental (with the exception of the spoken “I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe”), the song evolves from elastic, visceral post-punk into quiet, spectral neo-classicism, only to re-emerge in a furious explosion of noisy, angular fury. This track contains, in a nutshell, everything that made Rodan special.
  • Kevin Coultas’ drumming totally blows me away. Rodan went through 3 drummers in their existence, but it was Coultas’ imperfect-in-all-the-right-ways work that transformed the band from mere post-rock into epic chamber-punk. His drumming helped the band achieve the monstrosity of sound that their name implies.
  • It’s John Peel who, between tracks, mentions that the band will be returning to the US in just a few weeks in order to complete their follow-up LP. I guess a lot can happen in 2+ months.

So there you have it. In September of 1994, the band played its last show and fractured into several different bands, including June of 44, Rachel’s, Sonora Pine, and Retsin (Shipping News & Tara Jane O’Neil’s solo work would come later). There are a few low-quality bootlegs floating around that feature other, untitled tracks, some of which made it onto the debut records of the above-mentioned bands. But this stunning Peel session is the only studio indication of what might have been.

you can download the whole Peel session from this site