I’ve got to tell you, last week’s SNL musical guest spot by Jack White ranks up there with the best of them. I know people won’t be talking about this one for years to come or anything, but it threw me into a Jack White craze. I listened to all of the White Stripes albums last week and gave The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs their due as well. I’m counting down the days until Blunderbuss (40) at this point. So when Saturday rolled around and I had listened to “Ball & Biscuit” about four hundred times in the previous seven days, I wasn’t exactly in the right state of mind to watch The Shins. Still, I did my best to calm my bleeding rock n’ roll heart for a few minutes and enjoy their feel good shit.
Okay I should apologize for that. It’s feel good shit. It’s not shit at all. I think that The Shins and James Mercer are immensely talent. Their songs have an infectious life-is-beautiful-and-fun quality about them. For that I am thankful. They open with “Simple Song,” which seems like the latest on the list of Shins songs that fit the category. The drums maintain a slow to mid-level beat that allows the listeners to slowly nod their heads along (as always). Mercer dishes out some creative lyrics (as always) with lines like “Your face on a football field” and “you tied with me with your tongue/ when your breath went in my lungs.” Someone uses the whammy bar to create some slightly off-kilter high pitched accompaniments to the simple track arrangement. All in all, I don’t know what you could find to complain about with this song. It’s easy on the ears. It could rather effortlessly be slipped into a greatest hits album for The Police or The Eagles. That’s not intended as a criticism unless you want it to be.
“It’s Only Live”
So we’re back for round two. My biggest complaint of The Shins is how some of their songs blend together into the same formula, so let’s hope they offer a little diversity here. This time around, we have dropped all the way from slow mid-tempo down to an outright slow tempo tune. We’ve got some more of the playful jangling with the instrumental sets and even a little stadium ballad strumming. I think James Mercer is just starting to sound more and more like Glenn Frey every time I listen to him. Again, you’re free to take that as criticism if you want it to. Mercer is one of those guys whose age seems to shift simply by the way he wears his hair or buttons his shirt. Would you believe it if I told you he was 41? Yes, because he is. But wouldn’t you also believe me if I said he was 28 or 55? You know you would have to check to make sure I was wrong. Where am I going with this? Nowhere of course. It’s just impressive that the guy has a possible age range of twenty-seven years. As expected, this song is another close-to-the-chest by-the-book ballad with lots of “ohhhs” and “ahhhs.” I sound like I am being cynical but I’m not. There’s not much to say about a band that does the same thing over and over. I guess we should be happy when it’s consistently good.
So that was The Shins. They make songs that will make you happy. What else can I say? I like James Mercer. He seems like a really likeable musician and he’s starting to look a lot like John McEnroe. Unless I misunderstood, SNL won’t return until April 7 (that’s one long spring break) with One Direction as their musical guest. Who is One Direction you may ask? Why they’re everyone’s favorite Irish boy band! I don’t suppose I’d be lucky enough to die between now and April 7…