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The Postal Service – Give Up (Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition) March 26, 2013

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music.
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The Postal Service - Give UpArtist: The Postal Service

Album: Give Up (Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition)

Release: Sub Pop, 2013

Genre: Electronica

RIYD: Dntel, Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins

Back in 2003, riding on the explosive success of Dntel’s hit collaboration “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan”, Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie fame) teamed up to release an album of floaty and nostalgic electronic pop. Most fans already know the story behind the project (how the two musicians used the U.S. “Postal Service” to mail each other unfinished recordings and audio snippets that would become the album’s ten tracks), and, given the frequency with which the lyrics to “Such Great Heights” appeared in teenage AOL Instant Messenger profiles and away statuses, it’s safe to make the claim that Give Up was one of the classic breakthroughs of independent music into the mainstream.

Now, in 2013, Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello have again teamed up, but instead of giving fans their long-awaited follow-up album, they’ve decided to reissue the 10-year-old classic with deluxe packaging and a lengthy disc of bonus material and tour it extensively. Boasting two brand-new, never-before-heard songs, the reissue and tour at first seemed like a welcome revival of the project, but upon closer examination of the content of the release (as well as Ben Gibbard’s denial of any rumours of a sophomore album), the deluxe edition of Give Up feels more like a headstone to commemorate the duo’s demise.

Case in point: when asked about a follow-up a few years after Give Up’s initial release, Gibbard and Tamborello stated that progress was slow, explaining that the Dntel and DCFC projects had become their primary focuses and admitting to the completion of only two songs in more than that many years. After that disappointing tidbit, we didn’t hear any real news from them until they re-launched their website earlier this year to promote the deluxe edition. Putting two and two together, it seems as if those two completed tracks that formed the beginning of the elusive second album are the two “never-before-heard” songs that are found on the reissue: “Turn Around” and “A Tattered Line of String”. Their inclusion seems to confirm the project’s dissolution: The Postal Service have Given Up.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, as the “new” tracks seem to be moving away from the tried-and-true formula that made Give Up so good. “Turn Around” is a decent song, but “A Tattered Line of String” sounds completely effluvient and generic when compared to “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” or “This Place Is a Prison”. In addition, the quality of both Dntel’s and Death Cab’s output as of late is vastly inferior to their releases leading up to 2003 (2001’s Life Is Full of Possibilities and 2003’s Transatlanticism), leading one to believe that a new album from the Postal Service might be similarly uninspired. It seems more appropriate, then, to let The Postal Service share the fate of those perfectly untarnished TV shows that get canceled before they have a chance to falter.

This comparison is accurate for The Postal Service because Give Up was and still is a truly remarkable album. The deluxe reissue only serves to remind us of how good the duo’s material was during that era, as all of the remastered tracks and bonus b-sides sound better than ever, even ten years down the line. “Be Still My Heart”, “There’s Never Enough Time”, and the covers of “Suddenly Everything Has Changed” by The Flaming Lips and “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins are just as good as anything on the original disc, and the whole thing is a pretty comprehensive collection of their work, with only the excellent Postal Service remixes of Feist’s “Mushaboom” and The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” lacking. Give Up is entirely worthy of the reissue treatment, and even if we don’t hear anything more from Ben & Jimmy in the years to come (feel free to prove me wrong), we’ll still have this well-aged artifact to cherish all the while.

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