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splendid > reviews > 3/4/2003
The Postal Service
The Postal Service
Give Up
Sub Pop


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Clark Gable"

Buy me now
Who could have guessed that something originally intended as a one off collaboration ("(This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan" from Dntel's Life is Full of Possibilities) would blossom into a full-fledged alliance that has everyone from cardigan-clad indie poppers to beat-happy jacks licking their chops in anticipation? Named in honor of the cerulean-clad men and women who made this union possible, The Postal Service is Death Cab for Cutie's Benjamin Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello, and their unlikely partnership has yielded a skittish, beat-happy wonderland in which sleep-weary precariousness crashes headlong into voluptuous pop excess.

Alternately frigidly austere and sticky as a vinyl chaise lounge on an August afternoon, Give Up is born of the artists' affection for Boys Don't Cry-era Cure and campy '80s electropop a la A-Ha and Ultravox. Tamborello's minimalist backing-tracks exude a fantastically self-conscious aura, glimmering between stuttering electro-pulses and serene flourishes of warmhearted humanity. In and of themselves, the tracks wouldn't warrant repeat airings, but through the addition of Gibbard's wavering cry and plaintively pretty lyrics, this otherwise beat-ravage landscape is afforded an air of unadulterated hope and steadfast humility; "Sleeping In" and "Clark Gable" are buoyed by Gibbard's redoubtable melodies, while Tamborello's deft touch with a keyboard/sampler drive glimmering moments of clarity such as "Natural Anthem" and "Such Great Heights".

Give Up's one real pitfall is that, on the whole, it sounds almost exactly like you'd expect a collaboration between these two men would, or for that matter, should, sound -- which certainly isn't to say that the music isn't enjoyable, or memorable. However, listening to "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" or "We Will Become Silhouettes" and hearing Gibbard's voice wafting so glibly over Tamborello's accompaniment, you might wish for a little more experimental weirdness, just for edginess' sake. Still, this issue is hardly insurmountable, and after a while, the sense of familiarity actually accentuates the nuances of each contributor's personal signature.

Call it dream-pop, call it electronic -- but whichever way you slice it, Give Up is an amazingly versatile recording, suitable for the highest highs and the lowest lows. It'll pick you up when you are down, or conversely, allow you to wallow in self-induced solitude, if that suits your mood.



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