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The Postal Service | Give Up (Sub Pop)
When Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie added a vocal to 2001's 'Life Is Full of Possibilities' by Dntel (aka Jimmy Tamborello) we stroked our chins and appreciated its incongruity ?? the harsh '90s Aphex Twin beats below the familiar voice was...interesting. So news that they'd teamed up again, for a whole album this time, didn't exactly set pulses racing in expectation of classic pop thrills. But classy pop thrills are what we get, on 'Give Up' ?? the cutest collection of '80s 'Brit' synth-pop since, well, the '80s. Quite why the likes of The Pet Shop Boys and Soft Cell should now be exerting such strong influences on some US pop ?? The Dandy Warhols also spring to mind ?? is a bit of a mystery (as is the words 'Pet Shop Boys' and 'Soft Cell' finding their way past my editorial radar...they have no home here, please leave ?? Ed)
Calling the band Postal Service is a reference to the songs' method of creation. Tamborello would send CD-Rs of songs to Gibbard who would then tinker with them on his computer, adding melodies and vocals and instruments. This kind of creating-without-meeting isn't always a recipe for success, but what didn't work at all for Buffalo Springfield has here made a little gem. There are echoes of Death Cab, of course, and the '80s as mentioned, but very few of the '80s names we could drop in comparison made albums of this consistency. A warm mention also must go to Jen Wood, who duets with Mr G on a couple of the best songs here, and thereby adds a fine flavour of prime Human League (doh! It's happened again! And are we to assume therefore that Ms Wood has a tuneless warble? ??Ed). Mention must also go to the sleeve: a tasteful combination of mysterious photos and fine fonts so well arranged as to be almost up to the standards of CwaS layouts (too late Cotton, you're fired ?? Ed). But the noises are the thing, and this disc makes many nice ones, playing with harshness and eeriness and texture and cuteness to create some big and bouncy songs you'll soon be singing along with. Although Gibbard remains committed to Death Cab for Cutie there are plans to tour this music, and to make more of it, which is very good news.

Jeff Cotton
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003