US - New Mexico - Full Moon 88 - 12/08/03
Chutes Too Narrow
It's springtime here in Australia, and the sophomore album by The Shins couldn't have come at
a better time. In the run up to the summer you need half an eye on new music to listen to as you
bask in the sun, or drive down the freeway, windows open and sunglasses on.
When Oh, Inverted World (2001) was released, the murmurs of Beach Boys influences seemed
far too good to be true, so I steered clear. Cynical fool. But now, on the strength of Chutes
Too Narrow, and the fact that I'm going to catch them live next week with Iron & Wine, I need
to get my teeth into that beauty too - and let those melodic juices run all down my chin.
The merits of Chutes Too Narrow are so obvious that you just have to get your own copy
to enjoy it yourself. It's all here: excellent songwriting, crystal-clear production, catchy
melodies - all compressed into 35 minutes. Once you get to the end you go around again for another
spin and let those hooks dig ever deeper. Easy comparisons? Jellyfish, The New Pornographers, the
more upbeat side of Elliott Smith - yes, that good.
My acid test for an album like this is how your favourite song changes with each listen, until
you can't decide which damn track is best - so you love the whole thing. First off I fell for the
blinding opener, "Kissing the Lipless", which had me punching the air with joy as the whole bands
bursts in after the first verse. And then when the song dissolves at the end in a glistening pond
of glockenspiel you realise there's the magic formula at work here, used most notably by someone
like Jim O'Rourke: accessible songs with subtlety and depth.
I've since been enjoying the chorus of "Mine's Not A High Horse", "Young Pilgrims", where the
phrase "Chutes too narrow" derives, the gorgeous
vocal harmonies of "Saint Simon", and the incredibly moving lead guitar line in "Pink Bullets".
But I'm sure that'll change again.
As I head up the east coast in a couple of months I can guarantee this, and Oh, Inverted
World, will remain in the CD player. Just so long as my wife doesn't go mad first.
"Not The Shins again...".
Copyright © 2003 Tim Clarke