Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  THE DISMEMBERMENT PLAN w/ Death Cab For Cutie and Cex  
  The Cotton Club  
  Atlanta, GA  
Reviewed by:
Performance Rating:
Sound Quality:
Overall Rating:

Indie Rock is Dead.

Lest you think I'm one of those "destroy-everything" critics, I'll confess up front: I believe in music. It gives me hope; it gives me meaning. Yet, when I go to a show like this one, I have to admit that I want to sob with frustration and disillusionment because my beliefs and hopes are destroyed. Yes, I'm probably going to give a band more significance than they deserve, but bear with me, 'cause I have a point to make (even though you'll have to wait a couple of paragraphs for it).

Before I can explain my reaction, let me step back a bit. This is a show that had every sign of being good. Both The Dismemberment Plan and Death Cab For Cutie are critically acclaimed; even EvilSponge gave their last releases 7 and 6 sponges, respectively. The times I've seen The Plan previously, I've been more or less floored by the energy and talent displayed. And every report I've seen suggests that Death Cab For Cutie are a phenomenal live band.

Yeah, sure, this concert was at The Cotton Club (a mainstream alterna-venue) and sure, the opening act was unknown to me. But this show was pretty much a sure thing -- so much so that we bought advance tickets.

When the other Minions and I got to the club, we quickly determined that the show was sold out. "Great!" I thought, "It's about time these two bands got all the local recognition they deserve."

Unfortunately, the first opening act Cex had already begun. I say unfortunately in this case because we hadn't managed to miss Cex's entire "white rapper w/ goggles" shtick. I understand that rap is the wave of the future, and I can see certain virtues in the musical form. However, it's not something that really connects with me, so I don't feel qualified to review it coherently. All I can say is that I didn't like this guy, and I was particularly happy when he left the stage.

At 9:19 PM, Death Cab For Cutie took the stage and launched into a set composed primarily of material from their last two albums. By 9:30 PM, I looked around me, grabbed a pen, and began to write something like this:

Death Cab For Cutie are a good band. I know this. They play well. The songs are catchy. It's clear they connect with their audience. And I swear it sounds like everything else I could hear on either college or even alternative radio. I listen to the music and I want to scream, "Where is your passion? Your angst? Your emotion?" Yeah sure, I know these indie rock darlings are theoretically wearing their hearts on their sleeve. But the problem is, it's the same thrift store sleeve that every other emotionally sensitive indiebopper is wearing these days.

And the only reason all these plaid-wearing people like this music and think it's inherently superior to anything else is simply the fact that it's played on college radio as opposed to commercial radio. In other words, it's "indie rock" so we're all good, noble, and unconcerned with audience appeal. And yet, when I listen to Death Cab For Cutie, I wonder how the hell is this different from The Dave Matthews Band or even (god forbid!) Creed? It's all there: the smooth vocals, the precise chords, the calculated "my heart is broken, so love me" lyrics. How is this any different than commercial radio?

Most likely Death Cab themselves wouldn't claim any distinction; however, I would argue that many of their fans would, just like they would turn up their noses at any popular artists. Still, the music itself sounds good. And I bounced along with it like everyone else, although I'm not hanging on Ben Gibbard's every gesture. Why? Because deep in my soul, I know that -- despite his heartbroken pretense -- Gibbard's girlfriend didn't dump him yesterday. And I can just feel that these songs are emotive, without being emotionally wrenching. It's all fake calculated emotion….and that's going to break my heart. It's enough to make me want to go home and listen to The Smiths and scream out, "The music they constantly play says nothing to me about my life"!

When Death Cab For Cutie left the stage around 10 PM, I felt drained. So when The Dismemberment Plan came on just a few minutes later, there was nothing left for me to invest in their show. I suppose this is a good thing because, for once, I could sit back and really observe the band as opposed to being wrapped up in their music. With my newfound suspicion, I could easily recognize all the little breaks in their show. I could explain to you how the band as a whole did not have the complete interplay they had shown in previous shows.

And yet, they still had this magic about them: they clearly were enjoying themselves on the stage. More importantly they were enjoying interacting with the audience, who responded eagerly. It didn't seem to matter if the band members got a little out of time with each other? And so what if singer Travis Morrison's vocals sometimes lacked the resonance they can have? These imperfections made their performance more real and somehow less rehearsed. But, like so many shows I've seen recently, I'm not sure that the audience caught the nuance; they were in the mood to see the highly praised Dismemberment Plan. That band could have messed up royally, but as long as they played Ice of Boston, everyone would tell you it was a good show.

This show left me frustrated and disappointed in many of the people who surround me at these concerts. As an uncritical, and yet conservative audience, bands feel the need to stay the same musically, lest they anger fans. And its not surprising that Indie Rock has slowly started to genericize in order to reach the lowest common denominator. Sure there are bands out there who try to challenge their audience, but I'm starting to believe that most fan are too busy watching the spectacle to notice.

Related Links:

Change by The Dismemberment Plan
Photo Album by Death Cab For Cutie


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Concert Review menu.