Death Cab’s new single is about gentrification

digging for gold in my neighborhood
where all the old buildings stood
and they keep digging it down and down
so that their cars can live underground

If you live in a city that isn’t filled with cranes and construction right now, you probably live in one of the few forgotten ones. Because almost everywhere else you go, there are massive building projects everywhere you look.
Low inflation combined with full employment, cheap money and a demographic handoff to the 73 million-strong millennial generation are the key drivers of this activity. There’s also more institutional money engaged in private investment than we’ve ever seen before, not to mention the foreign capital that is seeking a toehold in the best large economy on earth.

But not everyone is happy with it. The single from Death Cab for Cutie’s album (dropped August 17th) is called ‘Gold Rush’ and it’s about how you walk down the street and see all your landmarks replaced with construction sites. It’s not quite a complaint, more of an observation, complete with the perfectly turned phrases and imagery you expect from all of Ben Gibbard’s stuff. Death Cab comes out of Seattle, which has been utterly transformed over the last decade thanks to all of the Amazon and Microsoft money rolling in, not to mention the new push for urban campuses among leading technology giants.

It’s funny to think about the city that once played host to the grunge movement in rock & roll now being the poster child for radical gentrification.

Amazon has invested $3.7 billion into real estate development in Seattle and in January opened up its new Spheres building, which houses its own rainforest (!) along with cutting edge work environments for its local employees. Frasier and Niles Crane would probably be pushed out of the neighborhood by today’s wealth standards in their home town. Or maybe not – the Seattle Times is reporting that, finally, the building of new apartments had caught up with demand this spring. But…

For many renters, the changes have come far too late. Rents across the region have soared 59 percent since 2011, adding an extra $620 to the average renter’s monthly bill. The average rent for all unit types across both counties is $1,660, and it’s closer to $1,880 in Seattle — among the most expensive in the country.

Songs about gentrification are nothing new, of course…

Fifty years ago, Joni Mitchell was singing about the same thing on ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. The Kinks did a song called ‘Come Dancing’ in 1982 where Ray Davies sang about the old dance hall his sister used to frequent, which then became a bowling alley, then a supermarket and finally a parking lot.

Interestingly enough, Death Cab actually shot this video in Los Angeles, not Seattle, but LA – like every other big city in America – is going through its own version of what Gibbard is talking about. Lyrics posted below.

digging for gold in my neighborhood
(Gold rush) where all the old buildings stood
(Gold rush) and they keep digging it down and down
(Gold rush) so that their cars can live underground
(Gold rush) the swinging of a wrecking ball
(Gold rush) through these lath and plaster walls
(Gold rush) is letting all the shadows free
(Gold rush) the ones I wish still followed me
followed me, followed me
(Please don’t change)
(Stay) followed me, followed me
(Stay the same)
I remember a winter’s night
(Gold rush) we kissed beneath the street lamp light
(Gold rush) outside our bar near the record store
(Gold rush) that have been condos for a year and more
(Gold rush) now that our haunts have taken flight
(Gold rush) and been replaced with construction sites
(Gold rush) oh, how I feel like a stranger here
(Gold rush) searching for something that’s disappeared
digging for gold in my neighborhood
(Gold rush) for what they say is the greater good
(Gold rush) but all I see is a long goodbye
(Gold rush) a requiem for a skyline
(Gold rush) it seems I never stopped losing you
(Gold rush) as every dive becomes something new
(Gold rush) and all our ghosts get swept away
(Gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way
be this way, be this way
(Please don’t change)
(Stay) be this way, be this way
(Stay the same)
(Cranes) be this way, be this way
(Devour the light)
(Strange) be this way, be this way
(Appetite)
I’ve ascribed these monuments
A false sense of permanence
I’ve placed faith in geography
To hold you in my memory
(Gold rush) I’m sifting through these wreckage piles
(Gold rush) through the rubble of bricks and wires
(Gold rush) looking for something I’ll never find
(Gold rush) looking for something I’ll never find
digging for gold in my neighborhood
(Gold rush) where all the old buildings stood
(Gold rush) and they keep digging it down and down
(Gold rush) so that their cars can live underground
(Gold rush) it seems I never stopped losing you
(Gold rush) as every dive becomes something new
(Gold rush) and all our ghosts get swept away
(Gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way
Change (gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way
(Gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way
Please don’t change
(Gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way
(Gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way
Stay, stay the same
(Gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way
(Gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way (stay the same)
(Gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way
(Gold rush) it didn’t used to be this way
Change (gold rush)
(Gold rush)
Please don’t change
(Gold rush)
(Gold rush)
Stay (gold rush)
(Gold rush)
Stay the same

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  1. Death Cab’s new single is about gentrification – Financial Solutions commented on Sep 02

    […] digging for gold in my neighborhood where all the old buildings stood and they keep digging it down and down so that their cars can live underground If you live in a city that isn’t filled with cranes and construction right now, you probably live in one of the few forgotten ones. Because almost everywhere else you go, there are massive building projects everywhere you look. Low inflation combined with full employmen… Source: http://thereformedbroker.com/2018/09/02/death-cabs-new-single-is-about-gentrification/ […]