A good thing that has happened at Bollocks! HQ this summer is that we’ve been able to add two new contributors, both of whom are slightly more tangible than many of their cohorts. The sad thing is that, though we’re the three most provably extant contributors to Bollocks!, we all live in different cities at the moment. This sad (and temporary) fact means that a lot of our verbal sparring about music has to be done via email and – sometimes – in lieu of actual productive work.
To keep us all informed as to the weekly goings on at Bollocks!, I send the contributors an email (when I remember to) that roughly outlines what content is planned to appear on what day. I do this so that they have an opportunity to tell me, “Hey, I’ve got a review of such and such done” and then we can put it on the docket. Anyway, this week, I mentioned that I would do a review of Death Cab for Cutie’s Codes and Keys if nobody else wanted to. This prompted Justin to ask what approach I was going to take toward Codes and Keys because he wanted to set upon it with all violence. At that point, I hadn’t listened to the album enough to be sure of my feelings, but I mentioned liking what I heard so far. So then Zac chimed in with, “I was lukewarm on the new Death Cab album, but now I fucking love it.” He then proposed a three-way slap-fight/review of Codes and Keys.
And that’s when the fun started.
For some reason, late Monday night, I’d started coming up with a dumb email survey (like the ones you used to get every three hours back in 1999) about Codes and Keys and, early yesterday morning, I sent it to Zac and Justin. They seemed amenable to the idea (“Sweet Jesus, yes,” wrote Justin) and so the email thread spiraled on out of control, including a detour into several un-get-back-able minutes listening to Owl City, a band which Justin has masochistically been listening to “because I am going to review the sugary shit out of this record” (I think, if you want to try to typecast Justin, Zac, and myself, you have to consider Justin the almost recklessly brave one. The dude will listen to damn near anything with very little concern for his own sanity).
I’ll get to the survey “results” (the word has never been used more loosely), by which you may not find an opinion in line with your own but you will find plenty o’ laughs, in a minute. First, I’d like to recap the email battle royale that commenced between Justin and Zac (who has yet to make an official Bollocks! debut – he’s cooking up something special for Great Fucking Albums, and he’ll have it finished before the next Guns ‘n’ Roses album comes out). Justin was the first to get his survey done and, upon reading it, Zac declared it “hamhazardly wrong.” That’s not a typo: “Hamhazardly” is, according to Plan Z, “A portmanteau (or word-centaur, as I prefer) of Ham-fisted and Haphazard! It’ll be in Wikipedia by the end of the decade, but I like to beat the rush on this shit.”
Zac sensed from Justin’s survey an accusation that, ” Mr. Gibbard’s purported domestic bliss has savaged his creativity.” Zac disagreed with his characteristic diplomacy: “I say that’s a bunch of fucking nonsense.”
That debate is better hashed out in the surveys but there was also a difference between the two in what they find important in a song. For Zac, it’s the lyrics, which is why, “I supply heady and questionable sacrifices to the altar of The Hold Steady, and am bored to fuck by nearly all instrumental jazz.” For Justin, ” The lyrics here just don’t move me as much without the right musical framework, which to me is 80% of what will make a song resonate with me.” If you want my two cents, I probably tend to lean a little heavier on lyrics, but it’s hard to say what will move me. The lyrics to Ramones songs are largely fucking stupid, but I love the Ramones with all my heart.
But now to these here surveys: I wrote out a bunch of questions and not all of us answered all of them, but that’s okay. I’m not gonna reprint all of my answers where others will do, but I do want to provide examples from all three of us so that you can get the full spectrum of our feelings for this record.
The first question on the survey yielded some hilarious answers. I asked us to imagine that Codes and Keys was a food; what food would it be, and why? Justin’s answer is very revealing of his overall attitude toward the album: “Oatmeal, or Bran Cereal. Because now that Ben Gibbard has lost his edge, this is what his wife serves him for breakfast to keep him regular and help prevent heart disease. Also, like oatmeal, the music on the album has a base ingredient that can and has been used for so much more, but in this meal it’s simply mixed with 1/3 cup of water, microwaved for 2-3 minutes, and served.”
Zac was a little more abstract in his answer: “Once there was a peacock, raised from birth by a little girl named Esther. Esther and the peacock were inseparable; where one went, the other was sure to follow. One day, Esther contracted polio while drinking from a garden hose. A few weeks later, the virus had entered her blood stream and proceeded to viciously savage her central nervous system. While Esther was in the hospital, the peacock stood a silent vigil outside her window, and refused to eat. Esther died, and the peacock soon followed, succumbing to loneliness and starvation. If you ate that peacock, it’d be like Codes and Keys, because it’s very pretty and sad, and possesses a tragic hope, but is perhaps not as substantive as it might have been.”
My answer to the food question is gonna seem downright prosaic after that, but I said that Codes and Keys would be, “A strawberry fucking milkshake, probably from Burgerville [if you do not live in Oregon or southwest Washington, you do not know what Burgerville is, but that’s not my problem]. Some people are gonna get sick about half way through and some people are gonna eat that shit with a spoon and then lick the remaining bits out of the cup. And some people are gonna be all, “A strawberry milkshake? Bo-ring. I’m going to Jamba Juice!”
As this review is already trending longish, I’m going to expand it to two parts so that you can see for yourselves exactly how much time the three of us spent thinking about Death Cab for Cutie yesterday. I’ll end Part One by introducing you a little more to my friend Zac. During the email conversation about Death Cab for Cutie, Justin sent us links to some Owl City songs and, after hearing one, Zac simply wrote back, “That song makes me want to hunt and kill people for sport.”
It’s gonna be an awesome summer here at Bollocks!. Part Two of our Death Cab review will be up tomorrow. Look forward to it the way a person stuck on Disneyland’s Small World ride looks forward to the sweet release of death.