The songs build dynamically: There are fuzzy, thudding drums, cymbal washes and keyboard parts that bring to mind Portland's Quasi. The lead track, "Bend to Squares," builds from a sparse guitar pattern and cello line--along with Gibbard's slurry vocals--to washy full-band splendor. "President of What?" is a creepy little ditty based over a minor keyboard pattern. "Champaign From a Paper Cup"--a tremolo guitar dirge wherein Gibbard confesses, "I think I'm drunk enough to drive you home"--details the sad-sack scenario of hanging at a bar, getting increasingly drunk waiting for a companion (who seems bent on closing the place down).
Gibbard's stream-of-consciousness bummer poetry works against the delicate instrumentation, keyboards and vocal harmonies. While the album loses steam a little by the end, it's still a strong debut. But bear in mind: This ain't no party record.