Title & Registration was the third single taken from Death Cab for Cutie’s 2003 album, Transatlanticism. It was officially released as an internet-only single that could be streamed through the band’s website. Promo copies of the single were released on CD.
Live, the song’s layered instrumentation has been difficult to pull off and thus has been performed a variety of ways. All of these involve Chris Walla switching halfway through the song from lead guitar to keyboards, whilst Ben Gibbard takes over the guitar part. For the first half of the song, initially, both Gibbard and drummer Jason McGerr used electronic drums in order to replicate the distinctive drum machine sound in the song.
In the band’s 2008 tour, Gibbard performed the entire first two verses as lead vocalist, without a guitar or drums; before picking up his guitar as Walla abandoned his. More recently, Gibbard has kept his electric guitar strapped on for the song’s entirety, but using a shaker as percussion during the song’s first two verses.
This song has been described to be about a man who stumbles upon old pictures of his girlfriend in his glove compartment before she left him and the detached sorrow he has for the relationship leads him to obsess over why it’s called the glove compartment, since people don’t put their gloves there – they put their title and registration.
Lead singer Ben Gibbard went on to describe the song, in Rolling Stone, September 22, 2005: “This is a pretty honest portrayal of a real occurrence: I did find an old photo in a glove compartment. When you’re not expecting to run into stuff like that, it affects you the most.”
Editor’s Note: Though I have never found a photograph of an old love in my glove compartment, I have definitely come across such reminders in other random and unexpected ways. It always stops me when it happens, taking my breath and holding it in some kind of limbo space, even if only momentarily, especially certain photographs from certain past loves. Some souvenirs of love lost still pack a punch.