Considering those of us born between 1986 and 1989 were probably listening to a mixture of mainstream pop and rock around 2001, it’s unlikely we found The Shins when their debut Oh, Inverted World was first released. It’s as unlikely we found The Shins on a family holiday next to a lake somewhere near Los Angeles, gazing at the stars, because that’s a romantic ideal and real life doesn’t dish out romantic ideals. Like most people currently in their mid-twenties I found The Shins through the soundtrack to a very popular yet admirably independent film starring Natalie Portman and Zach Braff.
(Anyone reading this under the age of twenty: that’s Garden State, sort of like the pre-2005 version of 500 Days of Summer, except the guy from Scrubs is the protagonist instead of the guy from 10 Things I Hate About You, which is another great film, sort of like the pre-2000 version of Mean Girls, expect the female protagonist is an empowering loner and not Lindsey Lohan.)
So now we’ve established that I, like many others, found The Shins through a soundtrack I can readily admit that I know Oh, Inverted World best for its lead singles “Caring is Creepy” and “New Slang”. The two songs are cinematic, with slightly morbid lyrics that aren’t obvious enough to alienate a radio friendly audience. It’s no wonder they feature heavily on everything from primetime TV to independent film. That’s not to say they’re awful; the opposite, they’re fantastic. The whole of Oh, Inverted World is fantastic, and I suspect alongside sophomore Chutes Too Narrow it’s accountable for The Shins’ success.
The excellent penmanship doesn’t stop with the two best known songs. “One by One all Day” strums along like a railroad straight into the heart of Indie Central; “Know Your Onion!” is the epitome of good song writing; “Girl Inform Me” is a classic. When The Shins lie back a little and let the instruments do the talking, Oh, Inverted World still stands strong. From chiming harmony to intelligent melody, the whole thing is a rollercoaster ride blueprint for the many bands have emerged in the wake of The Shins.
My sole problem with Oh, Inverted World is a problem that echoes throughout The Shins’ career pre-2009, when Marty Crandall was dismissed from the band. In 2008 Crandall was arrested for domestic abuse, and though the case was later dropped due to “disinterest”, the chimes of this album always remind me of the allegation. Thanks be for everything, Crandall is no longer part of the band, and of course I don’t let the issue spoil my love for The Shins – but it does crop up somewhere in the back of my mind when I hear about them. It’s a uncomfortable, yet timely reminder that just because you’re part of a critically accepted band, it doesn’t mean you’re immune from being a twat.