Amid all the typical hand-wringing that can accompany an indie fave's major-label debut, the biggest lament of fans and critics alike about Death Cab's Plans (Atlantic) is that the quartet's stock-in-trade--winsome songs of lovelorn longing--has gone missing. Front man Ben Gibbard is no longer splaying himself in the emotacular fashion to which we've grown accustomed. Having ditched the achy-breaky of previous records like Transatlanticism, it's like he's noticing the world outside for the first time: there are songs of personal rebirth, like "Your Heart Is an Empty Room" ("Burn it down 'til the embers smoke on the ground / And start new when your heart is an empty room"), and the approaching-30 meditation on death, "I Will Follow You Into the Dark." So the question is: Is a Death Cab by any other steez still the same Death Cab? Barely--and that's good news. They're finally playing their songs like they own them, not like they've snatched them from Built to Spill. While the self-reflection and pondering might be too grown-up for the teen fan base who caught the band on The O.C., Plans is packed with weltering dynamics that are effortlessly likable. Youth Group opens. Wed 10/12, 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, sold out. All ages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Autumn deWilde.