Good Lord. Death Cab for Cutie has a dogged mawkishness and extreme politeness rarely heard outside of Christian rock. Codes and Keys is a bee’s dick away from the soppy hymns of Casting Crowns (that’s a band of Jesus freaks, if you’re wondering); it merely replaces the Bible with Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
As a veteran indie act that trailblazed the way into Starbucks, the quartet follows the manual on how to be an experimental band without alienating your newfound yuppie fanbase. They wear tweed blazers. They fiddle with keyboards and pitter-pattering electronic beats, making every track sound like a Sea and Cake demo. “Door Unlocked and Opened” dabbles in krautrock, because, well, that’s what bored musicians with good record collections are supposed to do after hanging around for more than a decade. But this shivering, sad little record sounds afraid to come out of your speakers.
Instruments mimic the hum of household appliances. Percussion quietly rumbles away in the background like a humidifier, as Ben Gibbard crawls under the covers with his microphone. Wounded and whimpering as always, Gibbard begs to be slapped. His lyrics paint a picture of a sheltered, feeble sop completely incapable of emotionally dealing with the world: “On the floor, fearful of what’s outside the door,” “You took me in your arms and you squeezed out the cold” and, no shit, “Bricks make me nervous.” Inevitably, a girl is scored, and “modern music, it ain’t to her tastes.” Hold on to her! Never let her go! Can she join the band?