The Reconfigured Shins Returns to Reclaim An Indie Rock Crown

The Shins' website
The Shins recently returned after a long layoff. And the band is quite a bit different this time around.

The Shins was indie-rock royalty, ruling the last decade with a often-brilliant combination of soft-spoken and frenetic music. Yet the band seemed to evaporate after the release of 2007's Wincing the Night Away, leaving fans to either listen to Oh Inverted World for a much-needed nostalgic fix or to watch Garden State 60 times a year.

Fear not: The Shins returns! And yes, this band is one of the lucky few that warrant an exclamation point. The Portland-by-way-of-Albuquerque outfit is set to release Port of Morrow on March 20, as well as play a show at the Pageant (6161 Delmar Boulevard, 314-726-616) on June 4.

Much has transpired since Wincing the Night Away was released. Mercer formed a bond with Danger Mouse, resulting in a side project known as Broken Bells All the while, the Shins underwent a fairly substantial makeover. Drummer Jesse Sandoval, keyboardist Marty Crandall and bassist Dave Hernandez were effectively jettisoned from the group.The new line-up includes Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer, guitarist Jessica Dobson, keyboardist Richard Swift and Crystal Skulls bassist Yuuki Matthews.

While the band experienced lineup changes in the past, this personnel shift didn't occur without some hurt feelings. Sandoval told the Portland Mercury in 2009 that Mercer dismissed him from the band via the telephone. He went onto tell the publication that he "felt unsatisfied, not as much by his release from the Shins, as the sheer lack of communication surrounding it."

The Associated Press recently asked Mercer on the new lineup, a factoid that's getting a lot of attention before the release of Port of Morrow:

Although Crandall and Hernandez guest on "Port of Morrow," they won't be touring with their former frontman, who defends the new lineup.

"It's not that these musicians are better -- it's that when you work with somebody new you get a whole new perspective on your song," Mercer says. "I want to be free to work with a number of people. I just think the songs benefit from it, and that's the most important thing to me."

To be sure, lineup reconstructions can leave fans pimpled and angry. Just look at what happened with Chinese Democracy-era Guns n' Roses. Even though the long, long, long-awaited album was for intents and purposes excellent, plenty of folks refused to believe the iteration of the band was the real Guns n' Roses.

Other times, changing members can be invigorating. Bush experienced some surprising success lately with The Sea of Memories. Even with a new guitarist and bassist, Gavin Rossdale's group is selling records and putting on more-than-serviceable shows.

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