Death Cab for Cutie, Dismemberment Plan | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Death Cab for Cutie, Dismemberment Plan 

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This double-headliner bill is traveling as the "Death and Dismemberment Tour," but while the name may be clever, it's also a bit misleading: neither Seattle's Death Cab for Cutie nor D.C.'s the Dismemberment Plan are going to kill you with their songs, softly or any other way; they're not even going to injure you. Granted, the Plan's material has often taken some fairly disorienting twists: both 1997's The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified and 1999's Emergency & I demonstrated a knack for spazzed-out funk, with singer Travis Morrison proving himself an ace comical ranter. But on Change (DeSoto), released last October, the band tones things down, becoming almost ethereal--on tunes like "Come Home" and "Ellen and Ben," the guitars ripple and sway while Morrison murmurs plaintively about relationships gone wrong. Death Cab for Cutie, on the other hand, have been pursuing the same gentle overall effect since their inception--if anything, their music is even more oblique, with guitars arpeggiating more than riffing and a rhythm section that flows more than it rocks. The band's first two discs were minor pleasures, fuzzy things that pretty much evaporated as soon as the last track ended, but their latest full-length, The Photo Album (Barsuk)--released the same month as Change--invests that basic sound with more bite and staying power. Imagine a gauzier Built to Spill, or Superchunk without the sharp corners, and you're getting close: on "Why You'd Want to Live Here" and "Blacking Out the Friction," Christopher Walla's guitars have just enough snarl to offset singer Benjamin Gibbard's forlorn vocals, complementing instead of merely shadowing them; on "Styrofoam Plates" Gibbard almost snarls himself, bitterly indicting his dad at the old man's funeral ("A bastard in life / And he's a bastard in death"). The new The Stability EP is more of the same, albeit lighter in tone--it even features a lovely, straightforward cover of Bjork's "All Is Full of Love." This show is sold-out. Sunday, March 24, 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Christine Taylor, David Holloway.

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