Critical Writings

Articles and Reviews: MUSIC

Wincing The Night Away by The Shins (Sub Pop)

There must have been a lot of pressure on the shoulders of Shins’ mainman James Mercer this time out, with the weight of expectation unfeasibly high for the third album from this Albuquerque, New Mexico outfit, after Natalie Portman’s dubious recommendation to Zack Braff in 2004’s indie-movie-by-numbers hit, Garden State, “The Shins will change your life”, propelled them overnight into Sub Pop’s biggest selling band since Nirvana. On first listen, to the previously unacquainted, this can sound like the aural equivalent of that overrated film, i.e. indie-pop-by-numbers. There’s a heavy Morrissey influence, especially in the vocal stylings, prompting the reflection that The Shins sound like one half of a great songwriting team that was always more than the sum of its constituent parts, much like the music on much of Mozzer’s solo material sounds like Johnny Marr was never inspired by a Keith Richards’ riff. A tendency towards lyrical obtuseness doesn’t help either. But not all of Morrissey sans Marr has been a complete waste of time, and give this a chance and its mellow wistfulness can become quite endearing, if not totally life-altering. Coming from someone who usually likes their pop a good deal dirtier and more propulsive (think Big Star’s first two albums) that is high praise indeed.

First published in Magill, March 2007

















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