Death Cab for Cutie emerged from punk-rock roots and, led by singer-guitarist-songwriter Ben Gibbard, paved the way for a new breed of “Indie-Rock” bands that were unabashedly melodic, emotional and poetic, while continuing to explore sonic textures that differentiated them from classic-rock tropes that, by the nineties, had come to seem cliched. While much of the music on Death Cab’s first four albums was loud and brash (but still catchy, earnest and introspective in ways that defied the post-modern assumptions of 80s and 90s alternative music), the band’s fifth album, Plans, went full-on metamodern, offering up an acoustic ballad called “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” that brings back 1960s folk troubadour vibes.
From a metamodernist perspective, perhaps the most interesting aspect of “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” is the spiritual philosophy expressed in its lyrics. Grappling with questions of death and the human spirit, the song neither settles on traditionalist faith (mythic heaven), modernistmaterialism (no soul), postmodern agnosticism (refusal to answer the question), but instead commits equally to two seemingly contradictory notions: 1) There is nothing after death (“the dark”); 2) There is some sort of personhood that experiences this nothingness (“I’ll follow you into the…”). The courageous embrace of paradox is expressed not only in the song’s refrain/title, but in each verse.
Listen and see if you agree! (And dig the unabashed audience singalong.)