The Shins

Oh, Inverted World (Sup Pop)

Record Reviews

The Shins

Oh, Inverted World (Sub Pop)

At some point it began to dawn on bands; just because a CD holds 70-plus minutes of music doesn't mean you have to fill the damn thing up. Compact discs have all but killed the concept of "the album" with their dilution, which makes the sharp focus of Oh, Inverted World all the more special. Clocking in at a svelte 33 minutes, the Shins debut is the near-perfect summer pop refreshment. Armed with gulping, high-register vocals, chiming vibrato-laced guitars, gliding bass, swirling keyboards, smart harmonies, and more hooks than the average installment of Hellraiser, you'd have to go back as far as the early-Eighties dB's records to find a young pop band this assured. Actually, with their two vocalists (or two vocal styles, hard to tell which, and the credits don't help), the Shins resemble the Stamey/Holsapple front line. But this isn't really their debut. This Albuquerque quartet has recorded two previous albums under the monikers of Flake and Flakemusic. And the Shins have only one songwriter, James Mercer, who is lyrically, err, ambitious. It's hard to fault his occasionally clever wordplay, particularly wrapped in such a winning musical package, but it often teeters too close to the precipice of pretension. You can't wrap your mind around, "And if you'd a' took to me like a gull takes to the wind, well, I'd a jumped from my tree and danced like the king of the eyesores" no matter how many times it repeats. Pop choruses demand a straightforward approach, one there's little doubt a band this smart will find in time.

****

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