Pimping the Pimps of Gore: THE SHINS, Live.


I used to believe that almost every CD player sold in America must have come with a free copy of THE STEVE MILLER BAND's greatest hits. It was one of those albums that everyone owned and somehow never purchased. Now my theory is that at least every third blog starts with a post about THE SHINS. A distinct contrast between the two bands: The Steve Miller Band sucks ass wholesale, The Shins rule.

But was anyone else embarassed by that scene in Zach Braff's "GARDEN STATE" where Natalie Portman introduces Braff to The Shins' music? It bothered me as much as a product placement as blatant as Fed Ex's in the movie "CASTAWAY." Why the hell couldn't it have been some fictional postal delivery service?

In "G.S.", Braff figuratively holds the headphones up to the ears of the audience and takes us out of his movie and into his basement after a joint and some wine. Maybe the whole "The Shins will change your life" scene wouldn't bother me as much if Braff hadn't already used the music of the Shins at the beginning of the movie. Why didn't it change our lives then, Braff?

Obviously I'm not the only one annoyed: there is now a blog dedicated to journalistic overstatements, named after dialogue in that very scene. Go check out The Shins Will Change Your Life. Now, admittedly, the very name of this blog comes from lyrics from a Shins song. But you have to at least give me credit for waiting 62 posts to write about the guys.

I didn't have blogs or Natalie Portman's one-note acting to introduce me to The Shins. I had Robert Pollard, lead singer of GUIDED BY VOICES. Back in 2001, I was writing for a suburban Philadelphia entertainment rag and I got the opportunity to interview Pollard during the release of his band's "ISOLATION DRILLS" album. Since I knew Bob had pretty impeccable taste in some pretty obscure music, I asked him for some recommendations. He scooped me on the New Pornographers, The Shins, The Strokes (who had just been signed to their label) and a few other bands.

After the interview, I contacted all of the labels of the bands he had mentioned. The first promo to arrive was The Shins' "Oh! Inverted World," and I immediately fell in love with it. It reminded me of really old Kinks and Zombies stuff, and the lyrics were pretty brilliant, too. (Go ahead "The Shins Will Change Your Life," use it.) I hounded Sub-Pop for more, and eventually got to interview James Mercer twice that year. I saw them in Philadelphia as openers for the RED HOUSE PAINTERS, and then later MODEST MOUSE.

Long story short, for those of you who just suffered through all of that: they're one of my favorite bands, whether or not they changed my life. Just for the sake of having some entertaining hyperbole, if you ever get to see them live, The Shins will blow your small and large intestines out of your ass, make balloon animals out of them and -- just before you pass out from the horrifying shock -- speak to you through their minds.

The Shins will end your life.

THE SHINS - Various Live
"New Slang"
"My Seventh Rib"
"When I Goosestep"
"Strange Powers" (Magnetic Fields)

JAMES MERCER - Live 01/07/04
"Harvest'" (Neil Young)
"Gone for Good"
"Baby Boomerang" (T.Rex)

For more on tonight's post:

- The full transcription of my interview with Robert Pollard is up at Swizzle Stick.
- Sub-Pop hosts the song from "CHUTES TOO NARROW" with the "pimps of gore" lyric, "So Says I"
- Check out this basement performance of "Gone For Good" (I think this is the version that appears as a b-side on the "So Says I" CD single)
- All this and more at the The Shins' homepage



ogmb said...

Only a few thousand people bought the first Shins record. But all the ones who did went out and started ... a blog?

Dylan Gaughan said...

The first Shins record was just certified with 350,000 in sales, and I think the second was just behind that the last I read.

I do like the V.U. connotations there, but I wonder if they ever sold anywhere near that amount of records before they broke up.


Anonymous said...

For some reason I used to own that steve miller album...now it makes me gag. I thought Garden State was way overrated. Indie rock/film for the masses. I guess I am in the minority here...- T

Dylan Gaughan said...

I liked how it started, but my stomach was hurting by the end of it by all the syrupy shit I was being drowned in. It was totally film/script school 101. They screamed into the "abyss" from a fucking Noah's Ark house?! Good god, man.

ogmb said...

Damn you Dylan for pulling the rug from under my VU analogy. Damn you.

PS I watched about 90 seconds of Garden State, might even have been the "Shins changed my life scene". Natalie Portman is no longer an actress in my book. I also think she has no pussy.

Anonymous said...

Bless you for posting on the Shins, and for being annoyed with Garden State. Braff's plug for them in the movie was disheartening. Highly overrated movie...I get angry thinking about it. But calming down now, The Shins are one group whose sound will never sound tired.

(btw, an underrated singer/songwriter on the Garden State soundtrack: Colin Hay.)

Anonymous said...

Just to be a pain in the ass - FedEx paid exactly Nothing to appear in Castaway. In fact FedEx initially refused to be in the movie because they didn't want to be associated with a plane crash.

I think appearing in a McMovie such as Garden State is equally as dangerous as a plane crash to Indie credibility. Thankfully the Shins are solid enough it doesn't matter.

-Cap'n Stabbin'

Dylan Gaughan said...

Ah, Cap'n, I can always count on you to be a pain in the ass.

FedEx may not have paid for the placement (for that kind of product placement, I can't even think of a price tag to match), but apparently Fred Smith, owner of the company, makes a cameo... so I'm not sure exactly how far they wanted to stay away from it.

They certainly love their role in it. From the "Fun Facts" portion of their customer service site:

"FedEx in the movies

If you think FedEx is only a shipping company, you haven't seen all the Hollywood movies we star in:


FedEx co-stars in the movie "Castaway" with actor Tom Hanks, who won a Golden Globe for his performance.

Hanks plays FedEx Express employee Chuck Noland, the lone survivor when a FedEx plane crashes onto a deserted South Pacific island. Noland is so dedicated to his customers, he can't bear to open the FedEx packages that wash ashore. He manages to take care of one package without opening it for the whole time he's stranded on the island. Unfortunately, he's unable to deliver it on time."

They forgot to add, "And for that, Noland was fuckin' fired. Thank you for using FedEx."

The company would later put out a pretty amusing spoof ad, which you can watch here.