Deciphering a reference is often based upon faulty logic. The Shins have titled their latest album Wincing the Night Away; it both recalls the beauty of Sam Cooke's 1962 hit "Twisting The Night Away" and the angst felt upon hearing the Rod Stewart remake. Perhaps it speaks to an uncertainty that must accompany the release of a new album by a band that has attained darling status--with both media and audience. The authenticity that came with obscurity is gone--what is left are expectations; something unfamiliar to a band that has Popped.
The album opens with the bubbly vibes of an early-60's strewn dream--and is defiant. The Shins feel no pressure to meet the expectations of the thirsty masses. Instead, James Mercer and co. have created a pastiche of early-60's soul-psychedelia, with an early-80's pop sensibility that displays a range of emotion from sadness to angst. Through a satiating blend of Duran Duran's fantastic landscapes with the morose contemplation of the Smiths, Wincing achieves pop charisma. (James Mercer is sounding a lot like Morrissey, with a beautiful British wit to his voice).
Is there a clear delineation of progression and regression when it comes to bands? Does a band, once at its apex, begin to slide toward obscurity? It would seem that the most important musicians do not. Quite often, the change that is undertaken after such a success is purely contrarian--an effort to throw back pretenders and other half-hearted support. This work exhibits none of those flaws. Instead, we receive a contiguous work that is wholly applicable to our lives--a tableau of moderation that can ease a soul in need of attention.
Illegitimacy lends itself to a wincing. A Rolex watch that has all the right parts but, stops working in a month--and turns your wrist an infectious greenish-black. That COBY DVD player you bought at Target for $69.00. These are the moments that make me wince. The Shins demand authenticity of themselves, and do splendidly to externalize that sentiment. This enables the listener to envelop themselves in the emotion portrayed by both words and music.
There is the sensation one has upon the severing of a limb--a specter that remains in the ether where that limb once roamed; vapors of pain, emotion, and conflict that never wilt. That pain of experience--death, love, loss--is universal. It is that enduring emotional residue that makes this album so accessible--no small achievement for a band with such celebrated expectations. • Robert Karmin