Saturday, 24 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #112 - The Shins, "Port of Morrow"

I've never quite been in The Shins fan club myself. I can see that tens, maybe hundreds of thousands are; but I view them perhaps in the way non-believers view Super Furry Animals. Nice, witty, poppy but unimportant. "Just a band", to quote Scroobius Pip.  They dress like people on the bus on their way to slightly offbeat office jobs. That shouldn't bother me, but it do. I've listened and even own a couple of the earlier albums without any connection being formed.

So now I give the new one a go: "Port of Morrow", a title all portentous and a cover all semi-mystical. What appears to be a llama black & white teleporting to the top of a mountain. And I've heard the single, "Simple Song", across XFM and 6Music for weeks already. It hasn't even made a dent; lyrically, I haven't picked up a hint.

So I'm really focussing now. "My life was an upturned boat/Marooned on a cliff/You brought me a great big flood/And you gave me a lift". Aah, it's a grown-up love song, all tender and metaphorical. Therapy tunes. And the next song is called "It's Only Life" as well. Perhaps is the soothing there, there of it all that leaves me cold. "How you meant to steer/When you're grinding all your gears?" He and us against the world, eh? "I've been down the very road you're walking on." Oh, you're so understanding, Mr Shins! This kind of thing doesn't work for me as well in the second person. Tell me about your pain, and I'll make up my own mind if it's what I'm feeling, thanks.

My lastfm reading is going to give the impression I really love this album, but I keep having to listen back to tracks because I tune out almost instantly. I heard something about a "cannon of towering hemlock", I think. "I'm just a simple man/Cursed with an honest heart" - oh, puh-leese! "Love is the ink in the well where her body lies" - That's just sleazy. "September" wraps up both the sleazy stuff and the references to the darkness in life in one globular workout that even a little slide guitar can't upheave.

By "No Way Down" I'm managing to listen to lyrics and I get the idea why some of my more literary indie pals gravitate towards this stuff. There's a writerly fleetness of image to them - "40 Mark Strasse" also qualifies. "For A Fool" nudges close to a bar-room country shrug. It's about "the way we used to carry on/Stuck in my head like a terrible song". I'm getting the words control freak.

"You have to be strong at such a very young age" on "Fall of '82" - there he goes again. Keep it to yourself, man. Some biographical detail about his sister helping him through "a downturn" with some current parallels, eh? "You were my lifeline/When the world was exploding." It's nice to hear a gratitude song. Maybe he hopes people make up similar songs about him. Maybe they do. (I've also just noticed that he can't pronounce his Rs properly.)

The title track closes the album and is reaching for the depth in no certain terms: "Life is death is life" (Faceplam!) Not sure why he does an extra high voice for it though. A reference to "my little girls" and "flowers in the garbage/And a skull beneath your curls" and away it fades.

Wating: Schmerapy out of Therapy

No comments: