Ben Gibbard is all over the place lately. With last years release of Death Cab For Cutie's The Photo Album and his vocal contribution to a track on DNTEL's Life Is Full Of Possibilities, his pipes are popping up on college radio and everywhere else. Comprised of reissued and compilation tracks, All-Time Quarterback is a dose of 11 tracks and almost 30 minutes more music for those who just can't get enough of his emotive voice.
Recorded over three years ago, the batch of tracks consist of material that Gibbard had penned which he didn't feel quite fit into the group sound. Released on two seperate cassette-only (and subsequently mucho out-of-print) EPs and a seven inch (as well as one unreleased track), this is the definition of bedroom rock. Comprised of a jangly old guitar, some crappy keyboards, and other random percussive elements all recorded to a beat-down four-track machine, these tracks aren't polished by any means, but have a surprisingly fresh feel to them.
Oh sure, we've all heard the simple, sensitive folk-singer routine before (Elliot Smith seems to have set a benchmark with his Either/Or release), but there really are a few gems on this disc. "Plans Get Complex" mix rough-edged guitar lines and a pitter patter of a rinky-dink drum machine behind Gibbard's strong vocals. "Rules Broken" even manages to turn a silly keyboard melody into something melancholy and nostalgic behind the reflective vocals.
As mentioned above, though, this release is definitely not going to appeal to a good chunk of listeners. The recording quality on most tracks is so fuzzy from tape hiss that it literally sounds like the lo-fi dubs you might hear some random person on a streetcorner selling, and not all of the tracks hit their mark (a cover of The Magnetic Fields' "Why I Cry" finds Gibbard wandering into falsetto land and losing almost all of the great qualities that his regular vocals possess). If you're a fan of Death Cab For Cutie, or bedroom popstars in general, there are many things to enjoy, though, including a rather charming homemade video for the opening cut on the disc.