Art is subjective, and the artist’s relationship to their work is infinitely more complicated than an audience’s. That said, there is no way a single person on this earth is going to agree with Ben Gibbard’s rankings of each Death Cab For Cutie record, as he recently did for Noisey. The Photo Album at second-to-last? Come on, man. Gibbard ranked each of the venerable indie act’s albums for the feature, though he seems not to have factored in how many teenagers used to make out to those albums into his rankings. If so, then The Photo Album would rank just behind Transatlanticism, which is rightly ranked at number one. Nobody makes out to Narrow Stairs. Here’s the (incorrect) tally:
8. Codes And Keys
7. The Photo Album
6. Something About Airplanes
3. Narrow Stairs
2. We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes
Chilling. Regardless of Gibbard’s flawed ranking, the accompanying interview is packed with fascinating insight into the songwriter’s process, the band’s history, and guitarist/producer Chris Walla’s tumultuous relationship with the rest of the Cuties. Elsewhere, Gibbard talks about how switching guitars led to what he believes is the band’s worst album, and also reflects on his relationship with the late Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. Most amusingly, he rails on the early-to-mid-aughts emo wave while thanking his lucky stars that Death Cab was able to bypass that particular label. As he puts it:
I’ll speak for myself, but from the very get-go, I was very disinterested in being attached to that music. Because a lot of it was just really bad. A lot of it was some pop-punkers who heard Pinkerton and decided they wanted to start talking about feelings. Seriously, listen to some of that stuff. It’s like they were into NOFX and then heard Pinkerton and were like, “Oh man, I got feelings! I’m a suburban white kid but I don’t really have the intellectual capacity to express these feelings in an interesting way so I’m going to speak about them in the most straightforward manner possible.” And a lot of it is just really cringey to me. So we started getting a lot of emo labels or emo bands trying to get us to join their label or tour with them, and we were really leery of it. I was, at least, because I didn’t want to be overly associated with those bands. Interestingly enough, we’re playing tonight with Pedro the Lion in Utah, friends of ours for years, and I feel they were really similar. We benefited from having those kids come to our shows, but we were always able to skirt away. It was like The Matrix. We were able to Matrix away from the emo tag taking us down. I feel like we were very fortunate to not get too tied up in that. But I know a lot of people think of it that way, and that’s cool with me.
Read the whole interview here, and revisit The Photo Album’s “Movie Script Ending” below.