Simple Song by The Shins – I hate The Shins. I never understood it, never got why several reviews (both professional and Natalie Portman’s in the overrated existential weep-fest Garden State (N.B. Which soundtrack also contains a member of the WD top 16 ever of all time….I think it’s finally coming)) insinuated that his (N.B. And let’s be serious, The Shins = James Mercer. He essentially gutted what had been The Shins for this album) first album would change your life, blah, blah. I found it hollow and whiny (N.B. much like Zach Braff). But in this track, Simple Song, (and certain portions of the entire album, Port of Morrow) he has borrowed something tangible from The Who, like Quadrophenia Who, like the greatest Who. Then I realized that may be the single greatest compliment I can give any piece of music. (N.B. Well, maybe after “plays over the closing credits of the bio-pic of my life “actual” version.”) So I don’t want to oversell it (which I’ve been accused of a bit lately, more later, including a potential solution). But if you are a band I have historically detested and I watch you perform on SNL and you so impress me with your performance that I spend wife’s hard earned money your LP, then I’d say you’ve knocked my socks off. (N.B Is “knocked my socks off” an upgrade or a regression from “melted my face off?”) Mercer and this track did exactly that.
Port of Morrow drifts away from some of the weepy hollowness (have gotten across what I thought of his earlier stuff?) that so turned me off of them and led me to a constant one-sided argument with the Arcade Fire Pandora station, which I always seemed to lose. He’s exchanged it for, dare I say, actual fun, maybe even some rock, full of great vibes and unexpected turns. It’s a rewarding listen. Even the acoustic EP which accompanied the LP purchase is good. (N.B. On purchasing LPs and I’m talking vinyl, which I’m now really into: I can’t tell you the marketing genius (and I never say this) who realized that only serious music dorks shell out the bucks to buy old-fashioned LPs and they should be rewarded by (1) throwing in a free copy of the CD with the LP purchase (like The Boss did and DBT always does); (2) providing them a mechanism to obtain a free digital download of the just purchased album; or (3) throwing in some schwag EP that really gets their rocks off (Mercer hooked me up with both 2 and 3 on Tuesday. So he’s alright in my book). Tell all your friends in bands that this is the way to build some brand loyalty.)
He can still get a little whiny with a cringe inducing lyric every now and then (N.B. you wore a charm on the chain that I stole specially for you), but I’d give Simple Song an 8.2 and the entire album a 7 on the nascent WD normalized ratings scale. And this is how I intend to address WD’s lean toward hyperbole (N.B. Just in his music reviews, not in his life in general) that has a tendency to mask his true thoughts on a WD. I’ll employ ratings with more specific tenths of points for individual tracks (as this is the ostensible raison d’être behind WD) and whole numbers for entire albums after they have been consumed and considered. All, always, subject to revision.
I’m open to anyone’s thoughts on this. Especially if you find this only to be an easy escape from the verbal limitations present in the expanse between “kicks ass” to “vomit.” I’ve also kicked around providing some rankings of past WDs for perspective (all of which fit somewhere between Sprawl II, 10.0 and Chris Cornell singing Billy Jean, 2.0). So I’d like to hear your thoughts, as this is where reader input will be appreciated rather than just tolerated…kidding, kidding. Lemme know. Enjoy.