Death Cab for Cutie revitalizes its indie-rock reputation

Two years removed from its last album, it's clear Death Cab for Cutie was poised for a return to the indie music scene Tuesday at The Granada.

Performing on the release date of its fourth album, "Transatlanticism," the Seattle-based act focused on the new material, which, unlike its previous three works, was recorded in the studio before being tweaked live.

It was hard to tell the band (guitarist/vocalist Ben Gibbard, bassist Nick Harmer, guitarist/keyboardist Chris Walla and new drummer Jason McGerr) had played the new tracks for only five shows. Songs such as "The New Year," "The Sound of Settling" and "Expo '86" sounded nearly as polished live as the those honed during years on tour. One exception was "Lightness," which Gibbard had to restart after a verse because his guitar was out of tune.

Death Cab for Cutie certainly didn't forget about its old songs, rendering at least four from each of its previous albums. Highlights included "Pictures in an Exhibition," "Fake Frowns" and "I Was a Kaleidoscope," with McGerr flawlessly fitting in with the longtime members of the group.

Those older numbers came across best in the cavernous venue, which is at least twice the size of The Bottleneck, where the group normally plays when in Lawrence. The newer material's lush and expansive sound often was too light to fill The Granada, but the louder, more rocking vintage tunes worked better in the larger locale.

With Gibbard, Walla and Harmer having been together for half a decade, the bandmates were obviously comfortable together onstage, even while trying to perfect their fledgling material live. The guitarists' banter, both solo and to each other, was cute and amusing, especially jokes about the birthday of "Transatlanticism" and an impromptu chorus from Tom Petty's "American Girl" before "Expo '86."

While bands like The White Stripes have received more press and TV exposure in the past few years, Death Cab for Cutie proved Tuesday that it still deserves to be the darling of the indie-rock community.


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