In 2003, three members of different American rock groups worked together on a one-off project as The Postal Service. Unpredictably, the result was far from rock, although it might just about have scraped into the category that Americans call “alternative”. There was a certain charm to the dirty electronic sound which appeared, and it’s definitely an album worth owning.
The first track is the organ-driven The District Sleeps Alone Tonight, which is a strong opener, although it’s perhaps not the best piece on the album. From the beginning, you can hear that the influences are pretty unusual – the drumming and production in particular are quite unlike anything you’ll have come across elsewhere.
Next comes the lead single, the brilliant Such Great Heights. On the new remastered version of the album, it sounds fantastic – I’ve mentioned before that much as I loved this album, I could never quite get the hang of the sound on the original. The new version is totally different – the nasty overloaded grubbiness has gone, and for the first time it seems to be there in all the fidelity it deserves. And with its manic drumming and great melody, this song sounds every bit as fantastic as it should.
The acid nursery rhyme sound (yes, that’s a genre that I just invented) of Sleeping In is pretty compelling too, and while the song itself perhaps isn’t the strongest on the album, as a part of the greater whole, it fulfils its function perfectly. Then the duet Nothing Better is a bit odd too, but all the pieces fit together even so.
This album, Give Up, was relatively successful in the US, but only ever received a cult following elsewhere in the world, and so became a slightly surprising word-of-mouth success. A lot of potential fans seem to have dismissed it outright initially, while many others discovered it entirely by accident, and got a lot out of it.
The first half of the album closes with the lovely Recycled Air, full of soft and gentle charm, and a compelling description of air travel, which ultimately gives way to the less exciting Clark Gable, a slightly odd movie fantasy which takes place on the London Underground.
Then comes my favourite track on the album, the brilliant We Will Become Silhouettes. Quite what’s so good about it I’m not sure – I think there’s something rather special about the chord change in the chorus which just grabs me every time.
The rest of Give Up is less compelling – This Place is a Prison brings some entertaining drum work and some odd lyrics about trying to get a drink in this place. Brand New Colony has a nice 8-bit feel, but not a huge amount else, and Natural Anthem is just a bit noisy really. All very pleasant, but hardly Such Great Heights or We Will Become Silhouettes, and not even really a worthy trio to close the album.
The tenth anniversary special edition of Give Up also gets you a bonus disc, which is a slightly hit-or-miss collection, but includes some great b-sides and remixes, so is definitely worthwhile. Plus, as I mentioned before, the sound quality is infinitely better than the original, so if you’re only discovering The Postal Service for the first time now, this is definitely the version you should be hearing.
You can still find the double disc reissue of Give Up at all major retailers, such as here.