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Death Cab for Cutie

You Can Play These Songs With Chords (Barsuk)

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When Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla began recording the songs that would become the foundation of Death Cab for Cutie's full-length debut, few could've predicted that the pair would go on to be regarded as the Morrissey and Marr of the neo-indie school. But these eight-track basement tapes, which showcase Gibbard's gift for melody and Walla's layered production, were surefire indicators of things to come. Without question, Death Cab followers are familiar with the demo, which was widely available as a cassette-only release until going out of print last year, but the Chords reissue is bolstered by ten obscurities and unreleased treats. A cover of the Smiths' "This Charming Man" fits like a glove -- Gibbard's sugar-sprinkled falsetto has a roller-coaster quality reminiscent of Morrissey, and his multifarious guitar work recalls Johnny Marr's studio-hermit genius. At times, the group's influences are a bit overstated (Gibbard's faux British accent hovers precipitously close to Austin Powers territory), supporting the hypothesis that Death Cab didn't find its own sound until it was well into its recording career.

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