Music at Mars Hill is a weekly column by Luke Larsen that seeks to find God amidst the newest trends in both mainstream music and independent music.
First impressions are always tough. Death Cab for Cutie’s newest record, Codes and Keys, came out earlier this week and I still haven’t quite wrapped my mind around the whole the thing yet. The frenetic opener, “Home is a Fire”, definitely caught my attention though with its bubbling neurotic tension and bouncy drums. Frontman Ben Gibbard, who recently married indie darling Zooey Deschanel, finds plenty to doubt in the construct of his home. In the first verse and chorus, Gibbard sounds like an old weathered man complaining about noise pollution, sleeping problems, and the shoddy build of his house. It wouldn’t surprise me a ton if this was all there was to this song either, considering his knack for using his age as a lyrical device (“Stay Young, Go Dancing”, “You Can Do Better Than Me”).
When you get to the second verse, though, you start to think that there might be something deeper going on here. He uncomfortably croons, “Home is a fire/Burning reminder/Of where we belong, love”, hinting that the concept of a home might be more of a facade than anything else to Gibbard. He continues to doubt the concept of the home in the second verse, singing “With walls built up around us/The bricks make me nervous/They’re only so strong, love”. Gibbard, who in the past has written quite extensively about isolation and loneliness, now seems more concerned with keeping danger and insecurity out than letting things in.
Gibbard brings up some interesting questions here though as well. Where do we truly belong anyway? If the home is merely a facade, where can one truly feel safe and comfortable? Is there a place in our past or in our future where the longing for a true home is fulfilled? It reminds me of that scene from Garden State, where Zach Braff talks about the rite of passage, saying that once you move away from home you begin to feel “homesick for a place that doesn’t exist”. Perhaps the social construct of the home and all our fears about security and acceptance are just signposts pointing to something much bigger: a heavenly home and an eternal security. There has been a lot of talk among the Christian community about how to desire heaven more, but maybe the desires are ripe in places as familiar as our own homes.