Death Cab for Cutie‘s highly ambitious single-take live shoot went off relatively smoothly last night—and the video itself turned out pretty great, too. Lead singer Ben Gibbard referenced Busby Berkeley in his interview with MTV News, but the legendary choreographer’s name has come to be associated with nearly any sort of complicated group dance sequence, so it was a delight to see direct references to the pop modernism of his Warner Brothers musicals.
The press for the shoot makes mention of pulse monitors for each of the band members, with lights triggered by, as the director poetically describes it, “the signal from their own beating hearts.” And at first, when Gibbard emerges from a foamy background and his “heart” starts to beat, this idea looks like it’s going to be about as unsuccessful as it sounds. But once the video gets into motion (so to speak), what sounds like a chaotic, arrhythmic visual idea (compared to the song’s tempo) actually works quite fine. Thanks to the Expressionistic backdrops, the video finds the happy medium between almost scientific conceptualism and 42nd Street razzle-dazzle:
Most surprisingly, the video, in itself, doesn’t call attention overmuch to its single-take nature. Certainly, there are unbroken crane-shot sequences, but thanks to a number of brief cuts, the video doesn’t hang on its “Look, Ma” premise and actually stands alone.