Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Death Cab For Cutie once again target the heart on Asphalt Meadows

"Asphalt Meadows"

Release date: 16 September 2022
Death Cab For Cutie - Asphalt Meadows cover
14 September 2022, 00:00 Written by Simon Heavisides

Attaining a certain level of artistic consistency can be a problem.

There’s a degree of received wisdom out there that will tell you Death Cab for Cutie ‘jumped the shark’ long ago. The problem with such alleged ‘wisdom’ is that it works on the basis of removing the need for people to find out for themselves.

Of course a band with a rabid cult following also faces the inevitable disappointment from sections of their own fan base when maybe an album perceived as a compromise too far appears or a member viewed as key departs. After all, there’s no one more venomous than a hardcore fan scorned…

The question for a band in this position is what constitutes ‘success’? If we accept that giant stylistic leaps or transformations are off the table at this point (although there have been plenty of steps forward and refinements in the course of their career) then is the creation of an album, their tenth, that does what DCFC do and does it very well sufficient?

Never ones to shy away from existential trauma, Asphalt Meadows is another record that responds to the precarious state of society and the planet itself. Let’s face it, how can art not reflect our heightened state of emergency? If we survive long enough this may ultimately become a genre unto itself. Daily living in close proximity to potential chairs and oblivion informs an increasing amount of music being made now, thankfully much of it offers a constructive way to find some succour and work through our difficult realities.

Death Cab For Cutie are well suited to the task. Benjamin Gibbard’s ability to get under the skin of the minutiae of human interaction was there from the beginning and has not only endured but become more acute as the world has changed and humans have reacted and adapted. Each of their albums include moments where you feel him reach out and squeeze your heart so it aches just so, the level of greatness of individual records is probably directly related to the number of such instances. If that’s true then Asphalt Meadows acquits itself well. It’s there within the measured tread and stark atmospherics of "Peppers", or the twinkling sun goes down gorgeousness of “Fragments from the Decade” where loose limbed almost jazzy drums shuffle off into the distance, of course your mileage may vary according to your own particular emotional pressure points.

For better or worse Death Cab for Cutie have attained the modern day status of a band like R.E.M. in the sense that they are seemingly the epitome of a certain type of alt ‘indie’ culture. If that means routinely creating the kind of beauty on display here whilst maintaining integrity and compassion at your core then so be it.

Swim against the tide of received wisdom and you will find much to love about Asphalt Meadows, that feels like success to me.

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