Some things look better on paper.
On their own, Benjamin Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello produce some really good music.
Gibbard is the singer and main songwriter of Death Cab for Cutie, while Tamborello crafts alien electronic timbres under the moniker Dntel.
The idea of Gibbard singing music written — or programmed, as it were — by Tamborello is fascinating in its own right, but the actual results seem rather, well, quaint.
Maybe not on the level of Chris Cornell singing with the guys in Rage Against the Machine, but there’s some parallel.
That doesn’t stop the Postal Service, as Gibbard and Tamborello call themselves, from being at the very least pleasant.
The duo’s debut album, Give Up, reveals the odd couple nature of the group isn’t very far-fetched — Gibbard and his sensitive croon, Tamborello with his analog chirps and squeaks.
It doesn’t matter whether Gibbard is fronting the guitars of Death Cab for Cutie or a polka band, for that matter — he still comes across the observant everyman with heart on sleeve.
“Clark Gable”, in which the protagonist imagines romance as a movie script, shares a lot thematically with “Title and Registration” from Death Cab’s Transatlanticism.
On “Sleeping In”, Gibbard dreams of a world of certainty that’s far better than the uncertainty of a waking state. His picturesque verses paint a vivid world, but it’s a simple chorus — “Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in” — that captures his sentiment succinctly.
It’s not much different from what he usually does.
Rather, the Postal Service is Tamborello’s show. He’s done far more daring work, but when forced into the strictures of the standard rock song, he handles himself incredibly well.
Tamborello gets to show off his true form on “Natural Anthem”, but everything else — from the college radio-friendly “Such Great Heights” to the moody “This Place is a Prison” — pretty much shores up Gibbard.
And it’s still far more interesing than other bands pillaging from the glory days of the Yamaha DX-7.
As a first effort, Give Up is an appealing work, melodic and textured, sythethic but possessing heart. It’s the work of two artists from opposite spectrums exploring the patch of middle ground between them.
Let’s hope the next time out, they’re willing to see how they can fit together the parts that aren’t common.