Music Feature

James Mercer Starts A New Band; Calls It "The Shins"

by Joshua Pelta-Heller
And they sound a lot like his old band. Photos by Joshua Pelta-Heller.
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I’m not gonna bother reading Pitchfork’s review of The Shins’ new record.  I can’t see why I’d waste the time.  Reviews are moot, really, when a band lays claim with a pièce de résistance like Wincing The Night Away.  They’ve proven themselves, it’s over: now you just blindly consume the remainder of their canon and judge the music for yourself as it's integrated into the soundtrack of the rest of your life.  The most you can do, at that point, is just hope the band doesn’t fall apart, or lose that hunger for the craft too soon and start putting out records like Face Dances, or hiccupping gross catalog missteps like The Final Cut

My wager is, that won’t happen to The Shins.  But then again, can you even call them “The Shins,” anymore?  The whole band’s been sacked.  Now it’s sort of just, “James Mercer and co.,” really, who these days either IS getting produced by Danger Mouse or . . . is NOT getting produced by Danger Mouse.

Anyway, Mercer took the old Tower Theater stage with this brand new group of musicians, who go by “The Shins,” and who powered brightly through a 16-song set, saturated in deep primary colors, and presided over by that commanding feathered Hopi silhouette, perched atop their latest cover artwork.  And, I hadn’t heard Port of Morrow yet, but tracks from that record comprised about a third of their set, which also offered up crowd-pleasers from their other three records including a harrowing version of “New Slang,” furnished with another whole dimension of feeling by new lead guitarist Jessica Dobson’s haunting harmonies on that catchy chorus of self-pity.

After a break, Mercer reprised with a spot-lit, solo performance of “Young Pilgrims,” before the musicians regrouped for the last two cuts of the encore, bookending the whole show with the first two tracks from their good old debut record.

“Young Pilgrims,” old debuts, “New Slang,” and new album cuts, a veteran songwriter with a new band in an old theater, and it all sounded just great.

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