Album Cover
The Postal Service
Give Up
Sub Pop
February 18, 2003


There's nothing better than the feeling you get when you notice coincidences. So what's the coincidence of the day? Actually it's a movie: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The idea is, needless to say, classic but still "cool". Throw together a bunch of the most memorable and intriguing characters of classic literature in one wild adventure. Surely, nothing could ever go wrong with this plan, at least nothing that could make it "bad". A little over-hyped and over-done only reminds us that this came from a comic-book, and you know what that means: The fast paced action and crisp look make us forget how strange the plot is [but isn't that why we're here in the first place?]. Tom Sawyer working with Captain Nemo and Dr. Jekyl/ Mr. Hyde? I mean, who are we kidding here? That could never happen even in this fictional world! Either way, the movie makes up for its bad parts and is overall pretty entertaining.

And so we apply the formula to music. Sure, it's been done before [sometimes resulting in horrible albums by supposed 'supergroups'], but not like this. Jimmy Tamborello who is DNTEL and Benjamin Gibbard, the vocalist from Death Cab for Cutie, make a great team, and it's been proven before this. "The Dream of Evan and Chan" from DNTEL's own Life is Full of Possibilities is one of my favorite songs ever, so when I heard that they had created a whole album together, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. And so enters hype.

The Postal Service has its own superheroes: Super Jim and Ben-man. Jimmy has the power of upbeat electronica with drums and bass and plenty of high-low pop rhythms, and Ben-man has the power of an enchantingly smooth singing voice. Together they are unstoppable. A strangely enticing clash is created between Gibbard's soft, humming vocals and the bouncy pulse of DNTEL genius; it's this clash that makes the duo so unique and stylish. Add a sample of electric guitar, Nintendo theme, or string orchestra every once-in-a-while and you have an album.

So, let me just start off by saying that none of the tracks on Give Up are as mind-blowing as "The Dream of Evan and Chan." We must have been kidding ourselves to expect a full album of that high quality of songs, but don't get me wrong, Give Up is a dreamy, magical journey of synth-poppy goodness. It's strong and compelling, and it's easy to sing to. That's not to say that all the lyrics are top-notch, but they're catchy. Now, maybe I'm just stupid, but I don't understand the lyrical plot at all. Most of the time the lyrics just aren't incredibly interesting.

The first half turns out stronger than the second, but I can't decide whether the actual quality of the songs drops or that by track five you are just so attached to the first four that you just can't resist flipping back to number one. Track one, "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," is the best of the bunch [with "Such Great Heights" coming in a close second], and perhaps the reason the rest of the album seems to slowly go downhill is the shadow it casts to live up to. Or maybe it's the monotony of similar sounding songs. But, of course, there's always that little surprise at the end that gratifies you for listening to the whole thing: "Natural Anthem" is a refreshing ending, and it has nothing to do with Gibbard. The first half of the song is a grungy drum n' bass energy release that is simply mind-blowing in it's climatic statement. This track proves that without the brilliant backbone provided by Tamborello, this album could have easily gone down the drain. That's not to say that sometimes the clicks and pops sometimes get a little too repetitive; sometimes I start wishing for just a little bit more out of both of them.

But let's not forget the moral of the story: There may be a few problems along the way, but with a team like this, how could they loose? It has to be entertaining, and it is. That's all we really wanted in the first place, right? A good, crisp, refreshing, pop ear-dessert. So, yes, The Postal Service has proved themselves to be their own League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Andrew Wexler

Track List

  1. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
  2. Such Great Heights
  3. Sleeping In
  4. Nothing Better
  5. Recycled Air
  6. Clark Gable
  7. We Will Become Silhouetes
  8. This Place Is a Prison
  9. Brand New Colony
  10. Natural Anthem