One of the first conversations my wife Carrie and I had was about the mopey-dancy indie pop group The Postal Service.
She walked into The Club (a divey Las Cruces, NM bar and music venue; now closed, sadly) wearing a Death Cab For Cutie shirt as I was preparing for a rushmore beekeepers show, back when rb was briefly an indie rock/folk trio. Being a sometimes awkward conversationalist, I took this golden opportunity to talk about Death Cab and ask what she thought about Ben Gibbard’s side project. She said they were really good so I bought their album, Give Up.
She was right. I was immediately hooked, mostly on the tragically low self-esteem narrative of the opening song “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and the imaginary arguments and reclusive paranoia of “We Will Become Silhouettes.” (By the way, I have always loved The Shins’ version of “Silhouettes.”) “Be Still My Heart” (from We Will Become Silhouettes) and “Such Great Heights” are both optimistic, upbeat love songs, so it’s not all sad.
Roughly nine years after that conversation, Carrie and I went to see The Postal Service in Cedar Park, TX (not quite Austin) on their reunion tour for the tenth anniversary of Give Up. Comprised of members from Death Cab For Cutie, Dntel, Rilo Kiley, and most recently the Mynabirds, I always thought of The Postal Service as the indie music equivalent to a supergroup. Maybe a mini-supergroup.
I was apprehensive about seeing them live, not only because it had been ten years since their only full-length album was released, but also because their music always struck me as the kind you listen to at home alone despite its dancy electro-pop beats. The show was also at an indoor arena; they weren’t exactly underground when their album came out, but the “indie” scene was much smaller then. Also, I had talked to Jenny Lewis both times I’d seen her play, and I knew this would mess up my average.
Ben sang with conviction and danced awkwardly, as I’ve seen him do in the Death Cab documentary Drive Well, Sleep Carefully. He played drums along with Jimmy Tamborello’s electronic beats on several songs. An awesome effect, and one that added depth and dynamics to an electronic show. Jenny provided additional instrumentation and expanded vocal parts, helping to create a fresh experience with songs I’ve gotten to know so well over the past nine years. They even covered a Beat Happening song, “Our Secret,” and Ben made it a point to let everyone know it was a Beat Happening song and that everyone should listen to that band. They should. And so should you. I love Beat Happening.
Unlike the other bands I thought I’d never see live, The Postal Service never toured much and their music – as I enjoy it – never seemed conducive to a live setting, so I didn’t think about what I’d be missing. They were excellent, though, even if it seemed disorienting and out-of-place to see a live performance from a band that created the project by mailing their work-in-progress back and forth using a well-known parcel transfer system.
The ever-passionate and prolific Punks In Vegas posted a couple of videos and a review of The Postal Service’s Las Vegas show on the Punks In Vegas website.