Finally, for this new incarnation of Death Cab for Cutie, a clean break. The parting of ways with founding member Chris Walla loomed large over 2015’s ‘Kintsugi’. The guitarist and producer signalled his intent to leave half way through the process of making that record, but still completed work on it, meaning that his replacements - Dave Depper on guitar and Zac Rae on keys - felt like hired hands as they toured the album, not quite fully-fledged members just yet.
‘Thank You for Today’ feels like the first opportunity the band have been afforded in a long while to genuinely move forwards. Dave and Zac have officially been ushered into the fold and, no longer shackled by the cool command of Chris’ production style, they’ve made some adventurous moves.
That applies to both the music and the lyrics. Lead single ‘Gold Rush’ is built around a Yoko Ono sample and is thematically preoccupied with the gentrification of Ben’s beloved Seattle – both would have been difficult to envisage in past years. Opener ‘I Dreamt We Spoke Again’ is built around woozy synths, and applies similar haze to the vocals. Robert Smith invited the band to play his Meltdown Festival recently and you wonder whether he might’ve had a very early copy; The Cure hang heavy over the guitars on ‘Summer Years’ and ‘Northern Lights’.
Closer ’60 and Punk’, meanwhile, is a movingly crafted and sumptuously delivered paean to an idol-turned-friend-and-mentor, and his struggle with substance abuse. Throughout, there is a sense that Death Cab are realigning themselves under Ben Gibbard’s sole stewardship far more smoothly than many had predicted, and at the same time, that he isn’t happy to settle for simply steadying the ship and acting as a safe pair of hands. ‘Thank You for Today’ marks the stirring opening of a new chapter in this band’s already storied history.
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