Death Cab for Cutie can be forgiven for taking an abnormally long time working on the follow-up to 2005’s Plans. The usually prolific band maybe needed to take a breath after pumping out five studio albums in seven years. Or maybe the tardiness can be blamed on the U.S. government. More on that in the next paragraph. In an entry on his official blog, Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla says that the band is six songs into the new, Jack Kerouac-inspired album and “it’s pretty weird and pretty spectacular.” Walla cites one song as a “ten minute long Can jam,” a reference to the Krautrock pioneers, which does sound pretty weird and pretty spectacular. There might have been even more progress on the new album, however, had it not been for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
For those who didn’t know, Walla recorded his upcoming solo album Field Manual in Vancouver. On September 19th, an employee at the British Columbian studio was to drive down to Seattle with the songs in order to get them mixed. The truncated version of a long, long story is that U.S. Customs seized the hard drive containing Walla’s songs because they were improperly declared at the border near Blaine, Washington. Evidently, hard drives give border cops the woolies. The hard drive underwent intense computer forensic scrutiny before being returned to the border checkpoint from whence it came (Walla has made water-boarding jokes about it), and has been sitting on a shelf at Peace Arch station for over a month. Walla says no government officials notified his people in that time (even though Homeland Security insists they made three phone calls to pick up the device).
If the drive is in a customs office in Washington State, how can the album still come out in January, you ask? Thank the miracle that is the mail. Hippowest, the studio handling the sessions, shipped Walla the mixes, giving him adequate time to listen to the tapes. It also made the hard drive sitting in the customs station unnecessary, unless some gutsy DCFC fan wants to bust in there and get a first listen to the unmixed solo songs of Chris Walla.