It’s baffling why guitarist/producer Chris Walla would drop his long-laboured solo record only months before his band Death Cab for Cutie unleash their highly drooled-over follow-up to Plans. He’s either capitalizing on the hunger of Death fans or hoping this gets buried under the impending emo avalanche the new album is sure to bring.
Either way, Field Manual doesn’t portend any new Cab directions. Walla digs his heels into familiar melancholy pop ground on The Score, a driving, wistful rock number with ample “whoa whoas.” Lacking Ben Gibbard’s fragile-sounding cadence, he tends to go heavy on vocal overdubs, which give the songs some heft. But too often these songs sound like Death Cab B-sides, like the I Will Follow You Into The Dark-mining A Bird Is A Song. It’s great Walla could finally get this off his chest, but there’s nothing here to make Cab fans feel like they’ve been deprived all these years.