I can remember way back when all of the hoopla started about The Shin’s being on a McDonalds commercial. Remember that? “New Slang?” That they’ve “sold out.” That this was a thorn pressed into and a stab at the indie world? And what has happened since then? Well, nothing that has caused the world to cease its existence but The Shins certainly have made a name for themselves since.
Now roll forward to January 23, 2007 six years after their debut and we’re finally going to be either embracing Wincing The Night Away The Shin’s third album as a staple that they were meant to be so much more than some obscure pop band or that the novelty act has finally ended.
Having started as band that fellow indie pop kids cherished and kept away in the pockets of their cardigan sweaters with Oh Inverted World and then blowing our minds away with their second album Chutes Too Narrow with its incredible harmonies and James Mercer beautifully belting out falsettos that Just Timberlake himself would be jealous of what will Wincing The Night Away have to offer? I am sure Mercer labored hard. Tinkering with ideas back and forth for the past three years wondering how he can possibly top the last two albums.
Off the bat it wasn’t such a bad start. With “Sleeping Lessons” bringing back some of the old airy and ethereal feel from Oh, Inverted World and then “Australia” having some spring from Chutes Too Narrow…I thought to myself “wow, if the whole album is like this then they just may have proved themselves.” The hooks in “Australia” were irresistible. This must be it, The Shins are back! But I wish they would have picked this as the single instead of “Phantom Limb.” Because as soon as we’re treated to the single, the lazy feel had me at a turn. I heard that they were listening to Jesus and Mary Chain during the writing process and it shows. The sugar coated vocals with that slight dreamy buzz in the background…but for some reason this reminds me of a Phil Collins song.
Soon after…it all begins to trickle down. “Sea Legs” with it’s boring pitter patter drum beat, “Black Wave” with it’s Radiohead-like effect to lose yourself in some repetitious guitar riff, “Split Needles” with some harrowing guitar effects…these songs just seem to find themselves lost within this album. Perhaps The Shins may have been trying go a little further than simple walls of sound. But the inconsistency and out of placeness of these songs just seems to have me scratching my head. The only other songs that may actually remind me of The Shins were”Red Rabbit” “Turn On Me” and “Girl Sailor.” But even those two aren’t enough to save this album as a whole. I am not sure if some of these newer songs were James Mercer trying to dig deeper into his insecurities but the lack of congruency can give some old-time fans a hard time digesting this album.
But in the end we know that they will receive their praises. Having recently played SNL and featured on numerous magazines The Shins do deserve their share. Even though the new album may be lackluster in comparison to their previous work, they’ve kept the pop world a little sweet. But now that they’ve full-filled their three album contract with Sub Pop, where will we see them next? Only the next time warp will tell us.