by J. Caleb Mozzocco & r & & r & Directions & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he latest offering from Bellingham indie popsters Death Cab for Cutie is billed as "an innovative anthology of 11 short films inspired by each song on the band's acclaimed album Plans."
Or, in other words, a bunch of music videos.
While it may sound a tad pretentious -- in the band's intro to the films, they call the DVD itself "a beautiful experiment" -- the proceedings are refreshingly down to earth. These aren't MTV-ready videos made in factories; the directors are visual artists, photographers and, in one case, a graphic novelist.
DCFC has a definite, individual aesthetic -- lyrics full of dreamy imagery and a sound simultaneously heart-lifting and heart-breaking. A few of the offerings hew closely to this happy-sad feel, whether they're strong, like the elegiac stock footage collage that accompanies "Soul Meets Body," or weak, like the stereotypical art film set to "What Sarah Said," which includes a woman lolling around in her underwear, a man in black smoking a cigarette, and foreign language.
But many pieces are lighthearted and fun, including several animated ones. Jeffrey Brown, the Chicago cartoonist who has made a career out of autobiographical relationship comics, sets a typical break-up story to "Your Heart Is an Empty Room." Rob Schrab turns "Crooked Teeth" into a delirious mixture of cardboard puppets, live action and animation. "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" becomes a story about two bunnies in love in another, more somber piece.
Ironically, the most un-Death Cab video is also the only one the band actually appears in. Director Lance Bangs films it from first-person POV on a handheld from the back of a crowd at a live show, screeching a request for "Talking Like Turnstiles." When they comply, he rushes the stage and then gets chased by security guys. The song itself is nearly inaudible.
It's funny stuff, although his 10-minute faux explanation of how it came to be is even funnier: His original plan was to have the band wing-walking on skywriting biplanes for "Brothers on a Hotel Bed," but they gave that song to another director. Maybe he can do the wing-walking in Death Cab's next "beautiful experiment," as this one seems to be a success.