Sunday, December 07, 2008

Week 28: "What Sarah Said" by Death Cab for Cutie

“What Sarah Said,” from Death Cab’s album Plans, begins with a gorgeous piano line accompanied by a high hat. Three verses later the song hits its climax and soars with the band’s frontman, Ben Gibbard, plaintively repeating the line, “So who’s going to watch you die?” However, the rich lyrics of “What Sarah Said” that make it such a remarkable song:
And it came to me then that every plan is a tiny prayer to father time
As I stared at my shoes in the ICU that reeked of piss and 409
And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself that I'd already taken too much today
As each descending peak on the LCD took you a little farther away from me

Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines in a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend on a faulty camera in our minds
But I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground as the TV entertained itself

'Cause there's no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes round and everyone will lift their heads
But I'm thinking of what Sarah said that "Love is watching someone die"

So who's going to watch you die?
Through the first 27 weeks of 52 Songs in 52 Weeks Essay Project I have written about all kinds of songs. Many of the songs have not exactly been sophisticated. I think Death Cab’s “What Sarah Said” is by far the most profound and touching song about which I’ve written. The descriptive narrative of the lyrics describe someone drawing their last breaths in a hospital room.

I love the theologically fascinating first line that declares that “every plan is a tiny prayer to father time.” I am moved by the rich description of the depressing sterility of hospital waiting rooms. I am touched by the song’s final declaration that “Love is watching someone die” and the corollary question, “So who is going to watch you die?” This song is vivid and moving and a work of perfection.

You can watch the boring video to “What Sarah Said” here.
Death Cab released a follow-up DVD, Directions, to the Plans album which featured a short film for each song. The haunting video for “What Sarah Said” is based around a French version of the saying, “He loves me; he loves me not.”
And, you can see Death Cab perform this song live here.