Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Shins: The Rockist Verdict

You've got to be kidding me. Phil Spector gets charged with murder, and all the sudden everyone on the planet is copping his licks all over the place. The Clientele swiped the catchy guitar figure from "And Then He Kissed Me" to great effect on the chorus of "Since K Got Over Me". The Pipettes namedropped Spector in their mission statement. Every band and their brothers are opening songs with that familiar "bum bum-bum thwack" drum part. NYC shoegazers Asobi Seksu are taking Jesus and Mary Chain one further by actually covering ATHKM in concert. If Modest Mouse play the Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" on tour this summer, you'll know we're in trouble. And now you can add the Shins to this list.

"Turn On Me" -- one of the stronger tracks from their latest Wincing the Night Away -- opens with a sort of disfigured version of that same ATHKM guitar lead, then has the temerity to call in the aforementioned drum beat. As for the rest of the album, it lives up to its billing as having a deeper, thicker sound than their previous two efforts. "Sleeping Lessons" is a terrific opening track, megaphone vocals over spacy keyboard patterns before it lifts into an Arcade Fire-like manic finish. "Australia" is strong too, and would've sounded at home on Chutes Too Narrow, but beyond that, there isn't too much to hang your hat on. "Sealegs" is experimental only if you think using a drum machine and synth-strings is way out there, and "A Comet Appears" is a nice closing acoustic ditty, but maybe too predictable.

The production values are certainly higher on this record, and everything does sound good. If anything, what's missing are the clever songs, the unexpected hooks, and their trademark quirkiness. But they've got this craftsmanship thing down.

The Shins - "Sleeping Lessons"
The Shins - "Turn On Me"
The Shins - "Sealegs"
*photo by Brian Tamborello, from Sub Pop page.

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