NPR logo Death Cab For Cutie: The Pursuit Of Happiness

Death Cab For Cutie: The Pursuit Of Happiness


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Tuesday's Pick

  • Song: "Cath..."
  • Artist: Death Cab for Cutie
  • CD: Narrow Stairs
  • Genre: Pop-Rock

Death Cab for Cutie's "Cath..." looks at a young star whose fleeting fame can't mask her gnawing sadness. Autumn de Wilde hide caption

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Autumn de Wilde

Narrow Stairs isn't Death Cab for Cutie's easiest album to get to know. Often mysterious and occasionally meandering, it politely requests time to sink in, especially compared to the more overtly crowd-pleasing likes of Transatlanticism and We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes.

Instead, Narrow Stairs requires and rewards a bit more dissection: "Cath...," in particular, contains enough fodder for a feature-length think piece on the state of frontman Ben Gibbard's mind. A look at a young star whose fleeting fame can't mask her gnawing sadness, the song practically begs to be picked apart, its narrator psychoanalyzed for good measure. "Everybody will ask what became of you," Gibbard sings in the chorus. "'Cause your heart was dying fast, and you didn't know what to do."

Whether selling millions or toiling in obscurity, Gibbard has always been more winsome than tortured, and Death Cab for Cutie takes care to leaven the bleakness with a surprisingly muscular arrangement. As it gains momentum, "Cath..." unfolds as a nuanced and affecting cautionary tale about the pursuit of happiness, the perils of success, the doors we close, and the choices we make as our youth fades.

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This story originally ran on Apr. 29, 2008.

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