Monday, February 05, 2007

Phantom Limb (2007) – The Shins

The specters that inhabited Oh, Inverted World inform the ethereal “Phantom Limb,” a song that might bring a new level of understanding to a wider audience; the song that arguably solidifies The Shins’ place in the mainstream’s conscience, yet which will retain its appeal even after you’ve heard it appropriated for some network television show an umpteenth time. Its flowing pace gently transitions in haunting gradations, navigated by James Mercer’s Brian Wilsonesque rudders of entrancing chord progressions and melodic maneuvering over jangle-fuzz reminiscent of The Jesus & Mary Chain’s “Some Candy Talking” softer side, recorded in The Clientele’s realm of lush pensiveness. Mercer’s oblique allusions flesh out the malaise of a lesbian couple who endure a small town’s conservative prejudices by remaining inconspicuous. Their impulses to publicly display their affection never manifest; instead, their appendages meet with imaginary caresses, hoping to avoid the harassment of an illiberal society; their dreams of enlightening the community by flaunting their relationship in the face of ignorance are no more real than a phantom limb’s illusory flail to knock down a barrier.

On the strength of “Phantom Limb” as its first single, Wincing The Night Away debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, and even the least pretentious indie kid had to have been a little conflicted. Sure, you were happy for the band. But, it also confirmed that the seeds which had been planted in Garden State when Sam shared “New Slang” with Andrew had officially germinated into the mainstream’s full-fledged embrace of The Shins. (The band even obliged by playing the song on their January 13, 2007 Saturday Night Live appearance instead of a second track off of Wincing.) Hell, if people were actually buying the album, that must mean people outside the file-sharing demographic dig The Shins. You know—old people. Thirty and forty-somethings. All those sales which set the historic mark for Sub Pop indicate a slippery slope that threatens further industry exposure and possible market oversaturation. And—not that the kids’ love of the band would cease—but everyone knows that it’s only a matter of time before your local Ryan Seacrest-affiliated radio station is spinning their disc on American Top 40 alongside The Killers. Then, the bloom is off the rose.

So, the tempered reactions, the tepid reviews that are begrudgingly conferred, the upheaval wrought upon the indie press—whether intended or not, these act to preserve the indie cachet of Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow by denigrating Wincing The Night Away. Sorry guys, but The Shins are everyone’s band to enjoy now.

  • Listen to "Phantom Limb" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.

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    Lilla Smutzig said...

    The shins were doomed to pop consumerism before they even knew it...their only recourse is to come up with something shockingly real and catch those ass-wads off guard.