Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs (Cover Artwork)

Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow StairsNarrow Stairs (2008)
Warner Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:

Contributed by: Mrdogg45Mrdogg45
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Perhaps I don't have a beating heart in my chest, but I never took to Death Cab for Cutie. I've always acknowledged the consistently excellent, if not occasionally hammy songwriting of Ben Gibbard, DCFC's alpha-male band leader, but his consistent topic of choice, the inner and outer workings of tha.
iTunes StoreAmazon

Perhaps I don't have a beating heart in my chest, but I never took to Death Cab for Cutie. I've always acknowledged the consistently excellent, if not occasionally hammy songwriting of Ben Gibbard, DCFC's alpha-male band leader, but his consistent topic of choice, the inner and outer workings of that mythical beast called love, always bored me when applied over the course of an album.

Part of this boredom comes from the perspective that Gibbard takes with the majority of his writing. He is always playing the part of scorned lover or forlorn observer, wistfully singing his flowery words of tribute to a woman who will never hear them. Surely the Death Cab faithful can point out a few instances where this is not the case, but generally, it's safe to say that Gibbard always plays the part of sad sack.

Well, thanks to a shift in perspective (if not topic), and some of the rockingest songs of the band's career, Narrow Stairs is the first DCFC album that has stuck to my ribs.

As stated above, Gibbard's overall songwriting focus hasn't changed on this album; he's still a man concerned with affairs of the heart. However, on Narrow Stairs, he is less a passive observer and more an active participant in the issues at hand. Take, for example, the excellent first single "I Will Posses Your Heart." Gibbard sings, with a confidence lacking on earlier releases, about making the lady in question his, no matter what it takes, promising that if she spends some time with him, he will eventually posses her heart. Control issues? Maybe, but it still stands as confident and motivated a statement as he's made in some time; at least the dude is taking charge for once.

Elsewhere on the album, Gibbard suggests that, gasp, he is growing sick of a relationship. "Talking Bird" is a nice little piece of metaphor that finds Gibbard singing about a bird that talks without saying anything, a pet that he has grown both bored and attached to. It's a little cheesy, but still downright fantastic to hear the man taking his one muse in different directions.

The other good thing about Narrow Stairs is that it rocks. In fact, it is the rockingest album that DCFC has made since their humble beginnings on albums like We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes and Something About Airplanes. "I Will Posses Your Heart" opens up with almost five minutes of bass and drum; easily the sexiest thing the band has ever done. "Long Division" is a mid-tempo number that rips the band from their usual plod and lets the guitars do more than the usual, whiny meanderings. And "No Sunlight" is the catchiest thing the band has done since "The Sound of Settling." Even the self-loathing lyrics of "You Can Do Better Than Me" can be forgiven when applied to such a pop-happy background.

Sure, there are the obligatory slow jaunts about the glory of love and the pain of loss, but those songs are the least interesting to me, as it sounds like the band is treading familial ground and running low on ideas. And regardless of how much the band turns up the amps, it doesn't look like DCFC is ever going to break out of the bedroom music genre that has made them favorites with high school lovers for years. Still, Narrow Stairs is a fine album that shows growth and maturity from a band that deals in an immature feeling. Think of it as the Death Cab album for people who don't like Death Cab.


People who liked this also liked:
Nine Inch Nails - The Downward SpiralDeath Cab For Cutie - TransatlanticismThe Gaslight Anthem - Señor and the QueenThe Flatliners - CavalcadeRefused - The Shape of Punk to ComeThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundWeezer - WeezerThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Moving Mountains - Pneuma [reissue]Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero

Please login or register to post comments.What are the benefits of having a Punknews.org account?
  • Share your opinion by posting comments on the stories that interest you
  • Rate music and bands and help shape the weekly top ten
  • Let Punknews.org use your ratings to help you find bands and albums you might like
  • Customize features on the site to get the news the way you want.
Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
RondoMondo (June 10, 2008)

I listened to this cd last night while I couldn't get to sleep (I'm pretty damn sick right now) and while it's not their best it's not a bad release for them.

carrymeoutlaw (June 5, 2008)

I like the whole cd. Your New Twin Size Bed is excellent, and Bixby Canyon Bridge is my favorite song. Most likely because it's about Kerouac, and he's pretty much my idol.

vaginalinferno (June 5, 2008)

the first 4 songs are fantastic, and i like grapevine fires, long division, and number 10 alot. (although i HATE the way number 10 ends. whats the deal with that? it sounds like a mistake) i think the last track is a little weak. shoulda been finger picked on an acoustic. and a couple tracks in the middle just seem like safe slow boring gibbard fodder. but altogether a good purchase. i will possess your heart is easily the strongest track

the_other_scott (June 5, 2008)

to "The dude"

i actually bought transatlantacism whenever it came out due to all the hyperbole. that album is boring and uninteresting.

HonestAbe (June 5, 2008)


I've been longbaording for like 2/3 years but I don't know anything about brands, what's good what isn't etc. I kind of just happened into/stole a long board a few years back and love it. I go everywhere on that thing, but it's getting kinda worn down. Knowing nothing about brands and all that what would you recommend to some who is looking to pick up another long board. LIke put together (trucks, deck, wheels)

What I have right now is a Sector Nine ame up entirely of Sector Nine parts and I really like it, should I pick up another one of those or look into something else. In a similar price range

thomas7155 (June 4, 2008)

OI OI ra ra NOT PUNK!!!

GlamBalam (June 4, 2008)

I really don't like this band!

thus_spoke_sean (June 4, 2008)

Easily their best since Photo Album.

seriously, is this some weird dream? an elaborate practical joke or something?

nate_derby (June 4, 2008)

Easily their best since Photo Album.

thus_spoke_sean (June 4, 2008)

I am honestly suprised that people like this.

slymer (June 4, 2008)

Grapevine Fires and Your New Twin Sized Bed are two of the best songs they've ever written. Good album overall.

shanholtzer (June 3, 2008)

cath kinda sounds like modest mouse. i think this album rules.

chrisafi (June 3, 2008)

I will have to check this out. Sounds like it is another DCab album which lacks creativity and individualism yet if it was cut down to an EP would be top-class but instead is laden with filler ranging from mediocre to very poor

TheMike (June 3, 2008)

A good album and review.

chickswithdicks (June 3, 2008)

i think if this came out directly after 'transatlanticism' it'd be about a 5/10, however since it had the luxury of having the shit storm that was 'plans' before it, it's a 7 for me.

alexwank (June 3, 2008)

to the guy below me:- well done! i couldnt be arsed writing much of a response. but you wrote it for me. i agree with every single word you wrote (esp the concise evaluation of 'plans')

thedude (June 3, 2008)

to the guy below me, you can't tell me that transatlanticism is not an "interesting" album. that thing is full of all kinds of highs and lows, with each peak and trough perfected beautifully. listem to that album a few times and you'll start to appreciate it.

as for this album, i really don't know how i feel about it. i like that it's a departure from plans (the first half of plans: great, the second half: booooooring) but the middle of this album just seems to trudge along, with nothing really interesting happening. songs like bixby canyon bridge, possess your heart, cath, and pity and fear are really great, but everything else is boring. and not boring in a they're-a-mellow-indie band sort of way but in a lack-of-intensity sort of way.

the_other_scott (June 3, 2008)

can anybody explain to me how this band earned any sort of clout or credibility? there's absolutely nothing dangerous or fun about this band. i love plenty of "softer" or "mellower" music, but it has to be interesting. this band trends dangerously close to john denver territory.

kidgotham (June 3, 2008)

I have been a fan since Aeroplanes and I am somewhat dissapointed in the album. I think it has some great songs (Long Division, Cath, Bixby Canyon Bridge) but it doesn't come off as interesting as their other albums. Grapevine Fires is a horrible song. I think it may be the first DCFC song I have ever really disliked.
Can't they just rerecords "Movie Script Ending" over again. I would be happy.

alex101 (June 3, 2008)

Great new album. "I Will Possess Your Heart" is also a great song on this one.

alexwank (June 3, 2008)

as a long time fan i'd say it's disappointing. post the guy below's review for a different perspective to the one presented in this review.

thus_spoke_sean (June 3, 2008)

and by long explanation, i meant 'review'

which should get posted

thus_spoke_sean (June 3, 2008)

Booo. This album sucks. I wrote a long explanation about how this is easily Death Cab's worst (actually their only bad output) but for now ill just say that the song "Cath" is the only reason I would this on.

Exclusive Streams


Newest Reviews

Punknews.org Team

Managing Editor

Adam White

Contributing Editors

Kira Wisniewski Brittany Strummer Armando Olivas John Flynn Chris Moran John Gentile Mark Little

Copy Editor

Adam Eisenberg Britt Reiser

Podcast Producer

Greg Simpson


Aubin Paul

ISSN 1710-5366

© Copyright 1999-2013 Punknews.org

Terms of Use Privacy Policy Contact Us About Punknews.org

Other Places to Go