On a happier note
THE SHINS / ATLANTIC DASH, 14TH JULY 2004, BIRMINGHAM ACADEMY
Atlantic Dash should consider themselves very fortunate. They're the sort of band who might be regarded as local heroes in their native Northampton, young ladies fawning over their every shimmy and recalcitrant strand of hair, but on the Academy stage in front of unfamiliar faces they're not so much out of their depth as drowning in a plunge-pool of quick-drying concrete. Musically there's a bit of fashionably angry American post-hardcore and an occasional nod to The Cooper Temple Clause, but precious little of real interest. On this evidence, quite why Fierce Panda have taken a punt on them and released their debut mini-album Human Error is a bit of a mystery.
Responsible for two of the most feted American indie albums of recent times - Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow - The Shins are an altogether different and much more stimulating prospect, and not one that is easy to describe. Much as bands dislike being compared to each other, I always feel lost without some kind of reference points, and as the set unfolds I wrack my brain trying to think of some. Stephen Malkmus plays the music of Weezer? The Dismemberment Plan if they hadn't split up but discovered the joys of power-pop instead? There's not really any justice in them there suggestions.
For the most part, The Shins craft melodious, inventive and weird little pop songs with propulsive bass and beautifully clear high-pitched vocals, the lyrics casting a shadow over the effervescent music. Being utterly unfamilar with their recorded material, I'm sufficiently emotionally detached to be able to say they should ditch the limp acoustic numbers which crop up every now and again, summoning up the ghosts of bands whose names should remain unspoken. Overall, then, perhaps more intriguing than arresting, but an evening well spent all the same.