Death Cab’s “Plans” disappoint

Rachael R. Bogert

After a near break-up and jumping onto the titanic Atlantic label, fans of core member Ben Gibbard — side-tracked with his work on his Postal Service project — had to wonder which way Death Cab for Cutie was going to spring on “Plans.”

And, too bad for the followers who knew Death Cab before their appearance on “The OC,” they should feel like the parents of a troubled teen: not mad, but disappointed.

No one should begrudge the group for moving labels or appearing on an overheated TV show featuring coked-up affluent kids.

Death Cab has been dragging around for almost a decade now and at this point the group either “sells out” a tad or they form a murder/suicide pact.

But you may be mad that the once wry and scathing Death Cab is now on par with Coldplay. The music is so flaccid, you can’t even hate it, you simply feel indifferent.

As the band emerged from obscurity at the end of the last decade, they had a sound falling somewhere between Fleetwood Mac and Built to Spill. The bittersweet Gibbard and his heartrending lyrics had the backing of a capable group of guys featuring organist Christopher Walla, bassist Nick Harmer and Nathan Good (later replaced by Michael Schorr) on drums.

The band’s immediately prior recording, “Transatlanticism,” seemed to suggest good things to come for this mellow indie-pop band.

However, it comes off on “Plans” like Gibbard let his work on Postal Service creep into this Death Cab album with a jarring Jetsons-meets-Flintstones cross-over.

Instead of the raw texture of past Death Cab work, there is more of a celestial polish typified by the track “Brothers in a Hotel Bed,” which sounds like the reverberation of the “Such Great Heights” cut on Postal Service’s “Give Up.”

Aside from unwelcome project mixing, the featured lyrics are the millstone of the album.

Oddly, the band’s instrumentation has advanced to a whole new level with soaring organ work by Walla and stellar percussion from Schorr, making the tiresome lyrics seem all the more unnecessarily jaded and adolescent.

Lines like “different names for the same thing” sound like an observation from weeded-out, 15-year-old Bobby. The recording is dotted with such head-in-hand elegies that dress up the phrase “’tis better to have loved and lost,” like the yawn titled, “What Sarah Said.”

This album no doubt has an audience in old Death Cab fans and in an onslaught of new kids crushing on the “O.C.” appearance.

But, for people who haven’t marked Thursdays on their calendars with an “OMG! OC!” here’s a dreary incidental you will probably buy out of habit and blog about later.