The Shins had me at hello with Oh, Inverted World (Sub Pop, 2001). Chutes Too Narrow (2003) and Wincing the Night Away (2007) made up the soundtrack to the most profound changes in my life: namely, marriage and parenthood. We even took our toddler son to see the Shins perform at an Austin City Limits taping in 2006. Then the band imploded. Frontman James Mercer gutted the ranks, and I felt as betrayed as if he'd stolen my credit card and used it to buy a yacht on Costco.com. In short: James Mercer had the deck stacked against him in my book tonight. Did he redeem himself? Yes and no. Mercer and his new bandmates, which include guitarist Jessica Dobson (Beck) and drummer Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse), started their set with a retrofitted "Kissing the Lipless" and "Mine's Not a High Horse" from Chutes Too Narrow, and they didn't quite work – like trying on a pair of pants from your college days 10 years after you've gotten married and fat. On the other hand, tracks from the forthcoming Port of Morrow (Aural Apothecary), including "Simple Song," had their own fresh and progressive appeal, enough to redeem Mercer. Rest assured, though, that I'm keeping a close eye on my Visa card this time around.
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