The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Shins

Chutes Too Narrow (2003)

Sub Pop

They're from New Mexico, but they sound like they're from the United Kingdom - ladies and gentlemen, welcome the Shins to your collective consciousness.

Chutes Too Narrow is the band's most recent work, but it's not their first. They've already gotten a few discs under their belts both as the Shins and their previous name, Flake Music, via both Omnibus Records and the monolithic Sub Pop. Their basic sound is that of happy fuzz-pop that transcends decades and scene boundaries. If you've been frequenting any sort of indie music sites in the past few months, chances are all you've heard about are the Shins. They're the new buzz band for the 4th Quarter of Rock, it seems - can the album live up to the hype?

Frankly, no, but the New Mexican quartet, just like Pat Benetar, hits it with their best shot. What isn't on Chutes Too Narrow is a genre-defining record of any kind; this stuff has all been done decades before and currently [pick up any Belle & Sebastian record to hear a more laid back, orchestrated version of any of these songs, or conversely, any Superdrag record to hear a more amped up, cut-and-dry version].

What is on Chutes Too Narrow, however, is a nice half hour or so of catchy, intelligent indie pop that is great to wake up to on a Sunday morning. What really keeps your attention, though, is frontman James Mercer's witty lyrics like "Just a glimpse of an ankle and I / react like it's 1805" from "Turn A Square." You find yourself listening more intently with every subsequent spin, looking for that next gem of a phrase.

Of course, you can just cheat and crack open the liner notes, complete with lyrics. Normally I don't mention liner notes, but the packaging on this disc is so beautiful I'd be chastised for not bringing it up. The seemingly intricately cut liner notes covered in bright, vibrant colors really express the music within quite well.

So is this the band to save rock and roll? Hardly, since they barely rock at all [sans opening track "Kissing The Lipless"]. The Shins are content with their mock-British accents and carefully-structured pop songs. If you come into this expecting any more than that, you'll be disappointed. Otherwise, you'll have a nice indie pop record on your hands - but definitely not one of the best of the year.

So Says I