In the US, The Shins’ debut album, Oh Inverted World, was greeted with a Strokesian level of hubbub, but over here it received the same amount of interest as a Bobbie Davro press conference. Although that album was a stunning indie museum piece, it was very much a record to keep within your skin rather than wear on your sleeve and it lacked the sweaty hedonism and leather jackets to make the NME front cover.
Chutes Too Narrow, however, is made for the British charts. The Shins’ have packed this record with perfectly crafted pop songs with hooks enough to catch a shoal of anchovies. On a first listen the record does have a slight feel of an indie formula album, complete with the compulsory country number, however the sheer brilliance of James Mercer’s songwriting defies anyone to call it clichéd. With a schooling in The Beach Boys and The Kinks and a degree in leftfield indie, the Shins have created a dynamic and quirky masterpiece.
So says I is a ridiculously catchy, foot-banging fast number and on Saint Simon, Mercer’s vital vocals lead a wonderful meandering melody that echoes the brilliance of Brian Wilson and Arthur Lee, and a tone that Carl Wilson would envy. Even that country song, Gone For Good, is a wonderfully crafted love song with notably non-country lyrics like “leave the ring on the rail for the wheels to nullify”.
Chutes Too Narrow is, for once, a record that deserves a hurricane of hype.