Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oh, Inverted World

Band: The Shins
Album: Oh, Inverted World
Best song: "Caring is Creepy" is amazing, as is "Girl on the Wing" and the "Celibate Life."
Worst song: "The Past and Pending" is nice, but not great.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not enjoy this album when it was first released. Well. That's a lie. I thought it was just OK, but nothing special. I was in the midst of spending a summer in my college's town (I kind of can't believe Darwin Hindman is still mayor!) and doing work for the newspaper there (it is part of the University's requirements to graduate from the journalism school). My girlfriend and I had just broken up -- no big deal, as it was a relationship of convenience -- and most of my friends were gone for the summer. Similarly, it was my first semester as program director of the station. So, for all my lakc of social stuff, I was pretty busy.

That's not to discount my idiocy, it's just a snapshot in time.

If I remember correctly, I fancied Oh, Inverted World as an Elephant Six ripoff; I saw it as something that aspired to be Pet Sounds when it was really just some dudes from New Mexico trying to sound cooler than they were/are.

That was, shall we say, a very stupid thing to think.

Oh, Inverted World is a majestic album, lyrically. James Mercer and co. are adept at weaving literate metaphors into sunshine pop arrangements. Indeed, the album has wears its influences on its sleeve -- there is no doubt that the band takes Pet Sounds to heart -- but it similarly creates something new in Mercer's unique voice.

"Caring is Creepy" is stilted and cool, while "Know Your Onion!" has the melodies of an indie record and a beautiful harmony line. "The Celibate Life" is the kind of near-interstitial song that would steal any other album, were it not for the quality of the rest of the album. "Girl on the Wing," driven by a monster keyboard line, is one of the album's highlights, as the band shows its faster rock chops.


"New Slang" has one of the best videos I've ever seen (the band recreates classic indie rock album covers!), but has one of the weirdest gestations of any song. Though it one ofalbum's preceeding singles, the song did not become much until Zach Braff -- more on him in a bit -- included the song in his monstrosity Garden State.


Zach Braff is a very successful person and someone whose work I -- albeit begrudgingly -- enjoy in the way of the first five seasons of Scrubs. I think his character on that show is wonderful and the picture of a fun comedic foil. Though I have some problems with my love of the show -- namely, the overarching bullshit emotions Braff lays out over some middlebrow claptrap Keane song in the final moments of the show -- I do think he does good work. But, I'm sorry, Garden State is trash. It's complete sewage. It's what Wes Anderson would make were he retarded. It's poorly composed and stupid.

"New Slang" -- and the band -- gained a lot of popularity from the song's inclusion on the film's soundtrack. Indeed, in the movie Natalie Portman -- you cannot convince me that Braff didn't write that movie for any reason other than to write scenes in which he makes out with my dream woman -- hands Braff a pair of headphones playing "New Slang" and tells him "It'll change your life."


My problem with Braff is that he exemplifies middlebrow claptrap. Braff's half-witted emo philosophy at the end of the very episode of Scrubs is full of common sense bullshit (you know, love is hard and shit), but thrown out there like it's goddamned Socrates. Like Pete Yorn, Travis and the like (sadly, my beloved Death Cab for Cutie fall here), the emotion therein is true, but it's retarded. It's Titanic: Populous nonsense dressed up as depth.

The Shins toe this line very often. Shins fans (specifically those born of Garden State), by and large, are idiots. This is why I don't go to Shins -- or Wilco, by the way -- shows anymore. The band is great and literate and interesting, but the fanbase seems only to want to hear the (sorta) hits and stare longingly into their boy/girlfriends' eyes when they hear them.

Fuck that. I'm going to go listen to Priest.

1 comment:

arglebargle said...

I went to a Shins concert in Boulder before Garden State came out. The crowd kept yelling at the band to stop playing such wimpy shit (but friendly-like).