It’s really easy to get completely fed up with what’s on contemporary radio. Everything sounds the same. Although this may be just a matter of one’s own opinion, the diversity of mainstream pop is limited to a handful of categories. They range from the white-male angst of metal-hip-hop (better known as “rape rock” since Woodstock 1999), to the carbon copy of today’s R&B, to the Zolof-hungry nü-metal acts who all seem to be studying up on the Third Eye Blind songbook. Of course, there’s also the shamelessly mass-marketed teenybopper pop, but that will probably die out before the end of the year.
Cynical ranting aside, tuning into the oldies stations or racking up a Motown collection is a convenient method of escapism. Take, for example, The Shins, likely the result of what can happen to a group of musicians who have become equally fed up, who refrain from buying anything issued after 1968, then create their own sound.
The results are a conglomeration of ’60s pop that’s heard throughout the group’s second full-length, Oh, Inverted World. Leaning heavily toward the Beach Boys, tracks such as “The Celibate Life,” “Pressed in a Book” and “Weird Divide” (the later also hints at The Lovin’ Spoonful) contain the vocal harmonies and uplifting, feel-good bounce that made Brian Wilson famous. On the other hand, “Your Algebra” shows off more of a psychedelic side. And the albums highlight, “New Slang,” sounds as if Simon & Garfunkel graduated from the Eric’s Trip school of four-track production.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that The Shins are out to take over the radio. At the same time, this brand of melodic and cheerful nostalgia is a nice alternative to what’s being crammed down our throats. But I have to admit that it would be really neat if these guys could establish a choreographed dance routine into their live set. An indie boy band? It could happen, although they would probably have to tape their glasses to their heads in order to keep them from falling off.
E-mail Mike DaRonco at firstname.lastname@example.org.