Carry Your Torch


Nerdy band gets major-network notice: The Shins appear on America’s Next Top Model—via T-shirts worn by third runner-up Elyse Sewell, girlfriend of keyboardist Marty Crandall. Every dog has his day. And the Shins deserve theirs with Chutes Too Narrow, the follow-up to their pithy debut, Oh, Inverted World. These Albuquerque boys rocked their World with pensive and hummable ditties suggesting an optimistic Elliott Smith, but now stir their brooding into a melting pot.

Resonating frontman James Mercer lays the groundwork with a ballad that rhymes like Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” through “da da da” ‘s and lyrics about fighting to make your way, before his bandmates layer on Cure synths and beats echoing Bunnymen blues. In “Kissing the Lipless,” Wire’s minimalism breaks into thrashing walls of My Bloody Valentine shoegaze, whereas “Turn a Square” bobs Beach Boys-style with the hyperactivity of pre-Revolver Beatles.

Mercer can be as elliptical as Frank Black or Stephen Malkmus (“Unite me, I’ve said no vow/The train is getting way too loud”). But unlike them, Mercer plainly carries his torch and advises likewise. Whether by hard work or dumb luck, he knows every man gets his due.

The Shins play Maxwell’s October 22 and the Bowery Ballroom October 25.

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