Oh, Inverted World, the Shins' debut, made you want to believe in small, simple pop music again, boasting lyrically obtuse songs you could hold in your hand and ogle before passing them on to friends, who you could only hope might treat the songs with the same respect. Damn, even McDonald's had to jump on the bandwagon, swiping the tune "New Slang" to advertise its food.
Luckily, that same sort of cyclical endangerment does not come into play on the Shins' second record, Chutes Too Narrow. Instead, you get more amazing, self-assured pop -- but not cocksure, like that Fountains of Wayne garbage. This record manages to expand and mature right in front of you, just like one of those instant-grow dinosaur sponges, but way cooler. Not only do they eliminate the fluff, but the Shins don't wear any obvious influences anywhere on anyone's sleeves at any time.
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Okay, so on "Mine's Not a High Horse" the guitars sound like Echo and the Bunnymen -- but not like Interpol sounds like Joy Division, or the Rapture sounds like Gang of Four, or whatever. The Shins rip their Bunnymen-style guitars from that gray album with "Lips Like Sugar" on it, and no one likes that record. And all right, so they've displayed some reverence for '80s guitar pop, but they don't wear white belts. And sure, they have baroque elements, but that doesn't mean they wear scarves and boot-cut jeans on stage. And yeah, they have a Northwestern indie rock feel to them, but they don't whine and they don't resolutely suck eggs. Instead, the Shins make pure pop music for right now, which also happens to be the best time to listen to this record.