“Wall Street Journal” Asks: Have You Guys Heard Of This Shins Band?

Feb 14th, 2007 // 3 Comments

This morning, the Wall Street Journal introduced “Face The Music,” a new column with the not-at-all-bets-hedging mission statement of covering “music past and present.” The debut entry was all about how the Shins might be the next Nirvana–or then again, they might not. It’s one of those pieces where the writer has an idea that no one agrees with, and the strain shows:

Some purists are griping that the Shins aren’t truly an indie band since media giant Time Warner owns a minority stake in Sub Pop.

Wait. Whositgripingwhatnow? Not to counter one half-assed anecdotal observation with another, but we highly doubt that there’s a sizable group of Shins fans out there saying, “Yeah, Wincing is good, but you can totally hear Dick Parsons whispering in the background.”

While many reviews of the new record are positive, some critics have complained that the band played it too safe in a bid for sales.

Right. Like in the New York Times review that praised the melodies for being “pleasingly indirect”? Or the Chicago Sun-Times write-up that noted Wincing is more “mysterious” and “moody” than its predecessors? Hell, even the backlash baristas at Pitchfork thought the band sounded edgier than before.

…So the pressure is on and the knives are out: Will a group that formed in 1997 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, end up going Hollywood? Will the band be able to live up to the heavy promotion and retain its indie charm?

Nirvana faced some of the same kinds of questions when they released their third studio album, “In Utero,” in 1993. Nirvana’s 1989 debut album, “Bleach,” was an underground hit for Sub Pop, and the cries of “sell out!” from fans and critics began around its release, and only got louder as the band’s popularity grew.

So, in summary: A band that released one Sub Pop album nearly twenty years ago is somehow comparable to band that’s put out three Sub Pop albums since 2001–despite the fact that the groups’ musical styles are entirely different, and that one of them actually made it big when they signed on to one of the most powerful major labels in the world. Next week on “Face The Music”: Can the Scissor Sisters become the next Statler Brothers?

Following in Cobain’s Footsteps [WSJ]


  1. Chris Molanphy

    I picture a few thousand bond traders on the LIRR from Ronkonkoma reading this and making mental notes for the next conversation with their kids – “better ask Cody about these Shins later.”

    The article’s sales observations are succinct – totally obvious, but apt. But god, the Nirvana comparisons are feeble. You guys didn’t even include the dumbest bit:

    By the time Nirvana came out with its third album, singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain, bassist Krist Novoselic and drummer Dave Grohl faced a deluge of criticism for courting mainstream stardom — attacks that only subsided after Mr. Cobain’s 1994 suicide.

    Where do I start? The person complaining loudest about Kurt’s sellout was Kurt, and their gargantuan success didn’t stop Albini from working with them. And it’s not like Kurt’s death suddenly made a guy underappreciated by hipsters, y’know, “hip” again. Ugh.

  2. Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue

    Speaking of Pitchfork, whatever happened to Pick of the Fork? Did someone stick a fork in it? (Yes, that pun hurt me, too.)

  3. amrcanpoet

    The other problem with their analysis is that “In Utero” is arguably their most non-pop record (even more so than “Bleach”), which was intentional after Cobain was fed-up with the pop status they gained via Butch Vigs overly-clean production on “Nevermind.” (big fan of Vig and Garbage; just noting that “Nevermind” was not the album Cobain wanted).

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