The Postal Service

BY ANDREW M. GAERIG

DAILY ARTS WRITER

Published March 17, 2003

For anyone mired in underground music circles, the Postal Service is big news: Death Cab for Cutie mouthpiece Benjamin Gibbard and Dntel mastermind Jimmy Tamborello's contribution to Dntel's last full-length was considered a masterstroke for both artists. "(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan" seemed like the perfect one-off collaboration - the piece sounded effortless, as Gibbon's sweetly nostalgic lyrics swam perfectly amongst Tamborello's glitch foam. Would the duo be able to recreate the natural chemistry over the course of a full album?

The Postal Service sounds much like expected: Tamborello lays down noisy, if uncomplicated, techno as Gibbard, who has a penchant for writing lyrics in grammatically correct sentences, spins stories. Because Gibbard is often so morose, and much of Tamborello's work is so down tempo, there was a real danger that Give Up would be a long, hushed dirge, so it's refreshing that Tamborello is able to keep things moving at a mostly upbeat pace.

The duo shows an unabashed love for '80s synth-pop: songs like "Such Great Heights" and "Nothing Better" employ keyboard flourishes and shameless "ooh ooh" melodies. Frequent female guest spots, like the enchanting duet on "Nothing Better," and wrenching moments like "This Place Is a Prison" provide enough variety to keep things interesting.

If I had to complain, I'd tell you that Gibbard's lyrics aren't always up to his standards, and that nothing quite approaches the genius of "Evan and Chan," though that was as expected as it was inevitable. Those would almost be petty complaints, however, about a thoroughly enjoyable and creative collaboration between such disparate sources.

Rating: 4 Stars.