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- The Shins »
The meeting of East and West often ignites a few sparks. Granted, the reaction to these cross-country convergences can be a little over-zealous (RIP Biggie, Tupac and all those other gun-toting rap luminaries who’ve met an abrupt and bloody end) but you can’t fail to admire the unabashed passion that resides in each region’s ferociously territorial patriots.
Yet, tonight, when Albuquerque jingle-merchants The Shins bring their West Coast-infused brand of melodic indie-pop to Edinburgh’s surprisingly sweaty Eastern climes, the results are far from catalytic.
Now, Auld Reekie is normally castigated for exuding a staid audience ambivalence that only accentuates the much-eulogised dementia of its M90 rival, but here at the Corn Exchange it’s the sloth-like performance of James Mercer and his band of cohorts that smacks of apathy. Playing a set top-loaded with material from this year’s humdrum third LP Wincing The Night Away, the live quintet scurry through the syrupy pop shimmers of ‘Australia’ and ‘Phantom Limb’ with a militaristic efficiency that lacks the pizzazz or sparkle to lift the spirits of an increasingly babble filled venue.
For an act famously revered as “life changing” The Shins do a stellar job of altering absolutely nothing, allowing ‘Turn A Square’’s gushing ‘60s swing to trundle languidly through the airwaves instead of blossoming into a cacophony of spindling guitar and tumbling percussion.
Thankfully, Mercer’s stomach-knotting croon instils a little zest into the evening – particularly during ‘Mine’s Not a High Horse!’, where a frothing synth-led waltz encourages his timid whispers to escalate into growling cocksurity – but even he seems devoid of passion as plod-along staple ‘New Slang’ depressingly incites a wave of air-bound mobile phones; each desperate to capture that ‘Garden State moment’ Natalie Portman so eloquently professed.
And, really, that’s a crying shame. The Shins are so much more than the uninspired American Travis-isms on display here. Yet, as they hurtle through an encore that includes a bizarre, yet spirit-sapping, cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Breathe’ before ending meekly with the static rhythmic clutter of ‘So Says I’, it’s difficult to believe this band have crafted some of the finest sun-kissed melodies this side of Orange Juice.
And, yeah, perhaps minds had already wandered to the weekend’s festival appearances, but as Mercer and co. depart from the stage to a muffle of polite applause it’s all too evident those East/West fireworks failed to sparkle – never mind explode - tonight.
Photograph by James H Cadden
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