October 02, 2001

The Shins "Oh, Inverted World"

There's this great album by the Beach Boys, better than Smile, better, almost, than Pet Sounds. It's called Beach Boys Today. It's an important album, for it is a definite sign of the band's transition. For starters, there's isn't a single car song or surfing song on it. The first side of Today contains a song or two that are "fun" in the youthful sense, but are far from the standard Beach Boy fare. It's enjoyable pop-rock. Flipping it over, though---whoa, man, talk about KILLER! The songs are a lot darker, mellower, and much lusher than previous Beach Boys records, touched with a "wall of sound" that would quickly be seen in full effect in the next year. Maybe it was the pot that he was consuming every day, as well as the mental illness that was starting to set in, but whatever it was, side two of Today is clearly one of Wilson's most beautiful creations, though it's sadly neglected in favor ofPet Sounds. When listening to the album, you'd think that each side was from a different album--the styles are that different.

Thirty-five years later, a band called Flake Music decided it was time to change their style, to break away from the lo-fi indie rock they had been playing for nearly a decade.
Instead of simply changing their style and alienating their fans, they decided to change their name entirely. Instead of a change to baroque pop, the band has looked to both the skies and to the past for a sound that is troublesome for those who want retro, and retro for those who don't care for "retro" music.

Whatever your stance, you can't deny that Oh, Inverted World is anything but a major pleasure. Borne from the New Mexico heat, and seemingly tempered on the surreal, The Shins have created "a luscious mix of words and tricks," as they say in "Caring is Creepy." And Oh! Oh! what kind of lyrics those Shins boys have, too! You like oblique? Oh, Inverted World has them in droves! In fact, there are too many to list here, and besides, if i were to list all of my favorites, I'm sure I'd be venturing into copyright violation.

Oh, Inverted World is a short record, barely 33 minutes long, but the band's strengths can be found in the fact that they're super-talented, write great songs without pretension. Oh yeah, and it's a great day when a band can sound like both Brian Wilson and Mike Love. And, since they write such lovely, deep, and thick music, by the time you get to "New Slang (when you notice the stripes)" the song at the middle of the album, (and a lovely folk ballad to boot) you'll think you've listened to an entire album already. I know I did. And everything else was oh-so beautiful. Oh, Inverted World is one of those rare albums that is deserving at all the praise heaped upon it, and is a record whose beauty is so simple, that description of its beauty is pointless. Just go buy it already!

--Joseph Kyle

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