Monday, September 23, 2013

The OCD Chronicles: Death Cab For Cutie - "Photobooth"

Death Cab For Cutie takes the Shoe Leather Express
You might be able to tell through my words, thoughts, and endless reminiscing that my heart is full of flawed romanticism. Certain actions from years ago still haunt me and I’m very aware that I cannot change things that I’ve done to others, or choices that I may have made.

This includes a list of women that I could not communicate effectively with or provide the type of relationship that they may (or may not) have been trying to achieve. And while my choices-those flawed and those that were correct-have led me to the place that I am at today, I cannot help but wish the path to my current happiness was a bit more honest, efficient, and completely aware of how love may be life’s only true fulfilling thing. These feelings of regret are brought to light through songs.

After all, it’s the soundtrack to our lives, right?

And there’s probably one band in particular that is led by another man with a full heart, who’s catalog is filled with glances in life’s rear view mirror, constantly re-evaluating scenes in his head and roads he could have taken instead.

Christ, even their name is stuck in a reference from yesterday: Death Cab For Cutie.

I’m tired of talking about this band’s rise and fall in my own playlist, but I cannot ignore how there are songs in their catalog that serve as triggers. Because, let’s face it, part of becoming completely enamored with a band’s music often depends on how closely it relates to your own life. There may be themes or topics that appear in their songs that are so close to a personal experience or event that you’re almost certain that the lyricist has been snooping around in your journal, emails, or even worse-your mind, to come up with a few lines of prose for a fucking pop song.

And you love them all the more for it.

Like I said, I’ve fallen out of love with Ben Gibbard, but admittedly this may having more to do with no longer being such a fanboy that I don’t have a proper reference to his most recent work. All I have is the moment where our relationship ended, and the fond memories that he created with Death Cab For Cutie before our falling out.

One snapshot is the appropriately titled “Photobooth” from their 2000 e.p. Forbidden Love.

 The extended play is for completists only. Casual fans can stay away because short of half the songs on the five track e.p. are mere alternate takes or acoustic versions of songs that already appeared in their much better full length offerings. Two other songs are leftovers and they sound it.

That leaves one truly good track, which stands out in my mind as “great” because of the aforementioned connotations to my own memories which also seem to reflect Gibbard’s.


“I remember when the days were long” Gibbard begins “And our nights when the living room was on the lawn.” Usually, as we get older and more responsible, we tend to forget those times when our vehicles were the ticket to freedom. It was a time when an act like being able to simply hang out with a member of the opposite sex required traveling a short distance, and often the grass of a park, or cemetery, or beach, or whatever, became our refuge and our furniture. After all, how can you discover each other through thought or touch when your parents or roomates are within earshot in another part of the house?

“Constant quarreling, the childish fits/And our clothes in a pile on the ottoman” It must have been the hormones, because when the fuck did so little turn into so much drama? It is moments like this when I look back and realize how much time was wasted on trivial things, preventing us from enjoying what Queen referred to as this “crazy little thing called love.”

Those moments are precious, and to squander them now seems wasteful, but during your younger years, I’m willing to bet that most relationships are spent creating and dealing with petty bullshit instead of enjoying the moments you have with someone else to the fullest. Particularly in the summer.

Did you ever find love at the beginning of the season, work like hell to get them in the sack and then realize when it was all over that there was no chance of the relationship ever moving beyond that one moment? By the time the leaves on the trees begin to change, so does your attraction.

 Gibbard’s next line is where “Photobooth” really stands next to copyright infringement for me:

“Well I lost track and those words were said
You took the wheel and you steered us into my bed
Soon we woke and I walked you home
And it was pretty clear that it was hardly love”

When you finally get “permission” to advance, when it becomes clear that everything you have worked for the entire season to achieve is finally becoming a reality, it’s only afterwards that you figure out how maybe the other person isn’t the complete package that you’d hoped for. Maybe the sex wasn’t that good. Maybe you’re plagued with the guilt of saying things you didn’t actually mean and now you’re faced with the reality of having to distance yourself away. Maybe it’s the regret of opening the present before Christmas morning. 

The temperature in Iowa at this moment has literally dropped over twenty degrees in the course of one or two days. The hint of fall is approaching, and the memories of all of the things that didn’t get done are clearly in front of me.

Yet, my mind wanders as it often does, to a time when the only honey do list was to change direction with the season, on that seemingly endless quest to connect with someone. To finally get it right. To build a more permanent memory than some immediate snapshot taken in the photobooth of some dingy bar of a relationship that was extinct before the machine dished out the evidence of another example of wasted time.

Not necessarily wasted on the other person, but maybe the time spent with that person was riddled with pointless exercises that prevented you from taking the next step, or stepping away to look for a connection in a different direction.

May the cool air push your hard heart forward.

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