polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Hometown Love-Hate

by Rebecka Gordan

"Plates, they will shift, houses will shake, fences will drift. We will awake only to find nothing's the same."

– Death Cab for Cutie, "Home Is A Fire"

With the beginning of summer and its enchanted evenings comes a strange feeling for those of us spending it in our hometowns. The season brings a feeling of freedom and great expectations but also a sense of desolation and being stranded, as we stay while others seem to leave. Finding ourselves in the city we know by heart, the blocks, quays, and sidewalks suddenly seem oddly different.

Pop band Death Cab for Cutie’s new music video "Home Is A Fire" captures this atmosphere flawlessly. Recorded in some forgotten alleyways of Los Angeles, it reflects love-hate relationships with hometowns where we belong but often also wish to escape.

The video is a collaboration between Death Cab for Cutie bassist Nicholas Harmer and renowned street artist Shepard Fairey, known for his "Obey" sticker campaign and his Barack Obama "Hope" poster. In a personal essay, Fairey shares his thoughts on the sequence and what he calls the duality of "home." For Fairey, home is a place you inhabit and that inhabits you, but it is also a space of possibilities if we are brave enough to try to make a change:
"The city can be an impersonal place, imposing, simultaneously anonymous and claustrophobic. However, there are opportunities for us to affect the city (and life) experience rather than accepting things as passive voyeurs. We all have fears and insecurities about ourselves and our circumstances, but if we have the courage to take risks and participate we can adapt and embrace the flux, rather than fear it."
"This video is about illustrating these ideas and the multiple dimensions of the city experience by taking the viewer on a journey to encounter the Home Is A Fire lyrics as street art. Street art appeals because it makes the landscape a little less dreary for the viewer, and it is a bureaucracy free creative outlet for the participants. I would say that a street art call to action is 'if you don't like your home... reshape it.'"