Death Cab for Cutie, “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” from Kintsugi (2015): One Track Mind

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“The Ghost of Beverly Drive” feels like the centerpoint in Death Cab for Cutie’s unusual new journey, as these sessions both included and then again did not include Chris Walla.

Settling into a tensile cadence, they sound at once very like themselves and like something else — just what you might expect after losing someone who’s been so central to Death Cab for Cutie, both as a guitarist and (maybe more importantly, at least in the recording process) producer.

This isn’t a lyric that knows where it’s going, or a story with a bow-tied ending. “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive,” our latest taste of the forthcoming Kintsugi, focuses on the sweeping confusion that must have consumed a group losing such a critical component. It begins with a crash, and ends with repeated utterances — almost like a mantra — of “I don’t know.”

A new producer, with perhaps the promise of a new way of moving forward, certainly left Death Cab for Cutie positioned to move on. But it isn’t that simple. Walla wasn’t entirely gone. He plays guitar on Kintsugi, which is due on March 31, 2015 via Atlantic. He just didn’t hold sway over the process as he had for so long. They were, at least as these songs came together, stuck somewhere in between farewells and an absence that might guide them to the next thing.

The perfectly attenuated “Ghosts of Beverly Drive” seems to speak to it all, as Death Cab for Cutie refuse to pretend like the road forward won’t be bumpy. Or that they aren’t deeply confused about what might come next. Instead, the song transposes that sense of wonder-drenched apprehension — like the best Ben Gibbard lyric will — into a swirling narrative where thoughts and scenes and bold utterances and sad memory tumble out with a furious sense of confessional urgency.

Who can say what’s ahead? Or even, in some ways, how they ended up here in the first place. But Death Cab for Cutie has found a way to turn that into something both hopeful and brutally honest.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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