Pop & Hiss

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Are you too cool for Death Cab for Cutie?

August 24, 2011 |  9:53 am

At some point during Friday night’s packed Death Cab for Cutie show at the Greek, the friend who I came with mentioned that it was no longer cool to like the band. I had been singing along to practically every song when she mentioned it, so I suddenly felt really lame.

Then I craned my neck, and looked back at the huge expanse of crowd that stretched up the hill behind me, and shrugged the whole thing off. The ritual of not liking a beloved indie band as soon as they gain mainstream acceptance is a hipster rite of passage, and one that I have always been flummoxed by.

Plus, Death Cab has been mainstream since 2003, so by employing the cyclic rubric of hipsterdom’s love of all things retro, I might actually be ahead of the curve in thinking Death Cab is still really cool. In fact, I’m fairly certain that’s the case. The same holds true for my love of Green Day and pink Manic Panic hair dye.

There are just certain bands that I will always love. Like Built to Spill and Modest Mouse, Death Cab informed a very specific time in my life, but their music is more than melodic memory. Ben Gibbard’s lyrics have long struck a chord in me, and hearing them on Friday night I remembered why.

Gibbard sings about the loneliness of the outsider, the importance of love and the longing that comes with its loss. And what were once the romantic ramblings of a heartsick teen have given way to the wise and worn insights of a man who despite worldwide adulation is still, at his core, an outsider.

“And I do believe it’s true/ That there are roads left in both of our shoes / But if the silence takes you/ Then I hope it takes me too.”

If Gibbard isn’t cool, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. He never thought he was cool to begin with. And that’s why I like him -- and why he played two sold out shows at the Greek over the weekend. Outsiders love an outsider, no matter how "in" he may be.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: Death Cab for Cutie. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times