The Shins, Arts Cafe, London

Arts Cafe, London

The Shins are the perfect Photofit band. Taking the jagged chords of the Kinks, the heavy stomp of the Dave Clarke Five, the swirling keyboards of the Beach Boys and the overenthusiasm of a hundred US college bands, they are the dictionary definition of accessible. And credible. In America, they have been heralded as the saviours of US indie rock thanks to the smash-and-grab their debut album, Oh, Inverted World, committed on the charts back in 2001.

With so much to live up to, it's unsurprising that they share furtive looks at the start of this, their first show outside the US."We're gonna try and impress you," says James Mercer, versatile voice and guitarist of the band. But instead of the expected California sunshine and Britpop jingle-jangle, Mercer thrusts his neck towards the microphone and tears into a tangle of pop and garage rock, punctuated by rolling, thudding drums and lashings of angst.

It's like being mugged by your best friend. The shock of these mild-mannered tunesmiths turning into Weezer on speed confounds all expectations. Mercer's voice, capable of the smooth beauty of Brian Wilson's, shines in a sea of unexpectedly teasing rhythms and gloopy keyboards.

Pushing the boundaries of pop is all in a night's work. Girl Inform Me has the moods of a teenage boy, whiny and winsome, with punchy guitars and a nervy beat. From a shriek to a dizzying climax, Kissing the Lipless is a rollercoaster ride of emotions and rhythms.

But the Shins lack a cohesive identity. Tonight they sound like a souped-up Dexy's Midnight Runners, Mercer's vocals aping Kevin Rowlands' stretched-out, garbled phrasing. Yet during an acoustic interlude, the purity of his easy tenor pours over his guitar as he shrugs off the influences and finally reveals his own brand of perfect pop.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
CD: The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow

(Sub Pop)

Dave Simpson

12, Mar, 2004 @2:29 AM

Review: The Shins

6 out of 10:Reading, Saturday, 3.05pm. Less a set for bobbing around to than one for lying on your back and letting your body process the Carling you've consumed.

Helen Pidd

25, Aug, 2007 @5:15 PM

The Shins: Port of Morrow – review
The first album by the Shins' new line-up is typically bookish and melodic, if a little clinical, writes Ally Carnwath

Ally Carnwath

18, Mar, 2012 @12:04 AM

Article image
The Shins: Port of Morrow – review

Alexis Petridis: From their gently angsty, indie beginnings, the Shins are becoming a more mainstream rock concern – albeit at a cost

Alexis Petridis

15, Mar, 2012 @3:30 PM

Article image
Former Shins drummer claims he was fired
Jesse Sandoval, ex-sticksman for the indie darlings, claims his departure was not down to 'aesthetic' differences – he was sacked for not being able to play the parts

Sean Michaels

10, Aug, 2009 @9:58 AM

The Shins, Bush Hall London

The Shins are a cult band brave enough to be, quite literally, commercial. Before their debut album, Oh, Inverted World, marked them out as college-rock contenders in 2001, the Albuquerque band soundtracked a McDonald's ad. Six years on and the Shins are finally selling albums almost as fast as their one-time employers flog burgers.

Betty Clarke

01, Mar, 2007 @10:34 AM

Article image
The Shins record new album with different lineup
The indie-pop treasures have replaced two of their members for their 'up-tempo' fourth album

Sean Michaels

07, May, 2009 @9:47 AM

Article image
CD: The Shins, Wincing the Night Away


Maddy Costa

26, Jan, 2007 @12:07 AM

CD: The Shins, Wincing the Night Away

No snooze is good news for the erudite indie-pop stars.

Alex Denney

21, Jan, 2007 @12:19 AM

Article image
The Shins review – fizzy celebration of pop’s unifying power
More than 15 years of charting life’s struggles in pristine songwriting has paid dividends for the Shins’ only remaining original member, James Mercer

Dave Simpson

23, Aug, 2017 @10:47 AM