118 of 140 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2001
The Shins have managed to combine the best in pop sounds with everything from acoustic ballads, psychedelic sounds and pure rockers. While they maintain strong melodies and pop influence, there is still a hint of experimental sounds throughout this album-whether it's from odd keyboard approaches or wacky lyrics, the Shins have created an album that cannot be compared to anything but the Shins.
For a debut release, it's nice to see a band being a band and not following current trends. This could very easily be one of the finest new bands I have discovered. No song runs over four minutes and not one track on this albums needs skipping past-they all work on all sorts of levels.
The album's opening song, "Caring is Spooky" has such a great feeling to it. "Know Your Onion" is a great teenage rebel type song-talking about a "pimple and angry" kind of guy. The album's single "New Slang" is possibly one of the best acoustic songs I've ever heard-even though there is a great but simple electric guitar section too. And we cannot forget "Girl On The Wing"-easily the best song on the album. It rocks, has an interesting type of time signature, and a great, corky keyboard background.
This is simply a great Indie Rock/Pop album from a band that will be making wavs. It will be interesting to see where they go next. Give it a try.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2001
...well, maybe not my all-time *favorite* record, but I had to use a quote from the album for the review title...
I bought this thing having heard only one song, once, on the radio. Impulse buys are fun. I really lucked out this time. "Oh, Inverted World" is a great album. On the first listen, it's really good, and it improves over time.
I am not the type of person who plays an album twice in a row, or even once every day; I usually wait a few days between listens, not wanting to over-play an album to death. But this one's different. I can't get enough of it. And on every listen, I discover new things: new hooks, cool rhythm stuff, weird little sounds in the background. The songs are the kind that work themselves into your brain and rattle around in there for (literally) several days, and you don't mind at all. They are all standout tracks, except one or two, and even those are still very good songs.
The lyrics are unique, and good. The first couple times, the writing style comes across as quite strange. But once you get used to the style, you start to really like it, and it's so much fun to gradually puzzle out what he's talking about. I still don't understand the meaning of all the songs, so there's another reason to keep playing the record...
I wish this band had more releases, I would buy them immediately. I also wish I had the chance to see them live with Modest Mouse or Preston School of Industry, like some other reviewers, but in Australia that's not likely. I'll have to be content with playing "Oh, Inverted World" over and over again. And that is fine by me, really.
In conclusion: get it, get it, get it. Try, if you can, to find the enhanced version with "Sphagnum Esplanade" and the video for "New Slang"; but even without those, it would be a great album. So go and buy it.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2003
I'm finding it increasingly difficult these days to find entire albums I simply adore. The core of my musical being belongs to bands like the Smiths, Pulp, Suede, and Belle and Sebastian, who I believe carried on the torch dropped by Morrissey & Marr in this dark, dusty new millenium. But this little masterpiece called "Oh, Inverted World" by the Shins seems destined to head down that same gilded path.
I stumbled on this band by accident, looking up other acts on Amazon such as Stereo Total and Death by Chocolate. I was surprised to find out the Shins weren't from the UK, because they have a Britpop sound. Their soft, infectious rhythyms make it hard to do anything else except listen closely. Pretty much all the songs on this CD are exceptionally strong, with little filler. Okay, maybe "Your Algebra" references Os Mutantes a bit much, and yes, fine, "The Past and Pending" feels a bit long at the end there, but why carp? This album rolls dreamily by, as pretty and sublime as puffy white clouds in a clear blue spring sky. The thing is: this album is candy. Sweet and piercing, it will cloy lovingly at your heart, without you quite understanding why or how. And that's just fine.
"Know Your Onion" and "New Slang" are my two favorite songs, because they're sung in an aching ballad tempo with a bit of added verve behind it. Just my style. If you like Belle and Sebastian, but prefer their snappier (although more rare) tracks to their more heartfelt precious songs, then you'll really love the Shins. The album opener, "Caring is Creepy" immediately demands attention, because it has a soaring melody, with a glam-rock bent that recalls, oddly enough, Roxy Music. All the songs hang solidly onto quick, shocking melodies, and make their statement. Interestingly enough, there is a specific sound this band has, but is delicately adjusted tonally so that all the songs are momentously different, yet retain a similar aesthetic. It's a beautiful record, and a real achievement.
The pristine, rocking sound of this CD could feel equally at home in the world of Todd Haynes' glam-rock movie homage "Velvet Goldmine" (hello, "Girl on the Wing"!) as it could in your car CD player on a long drive through the lush countryside, or in a walkman whispering to you in a darkened room before bed. And that's just this album's gift: an enormous crossover appeal. Good anytime, anywhere, and for anybody. Pick up "Oh, Inverted World" for a real treat. I hope the Shins will be around for a while.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2005
I discovered this CD just a few days ago, and I'm still a bit surprised just how much it grabbed me. What initially struck me most about this album is how gentle and soothing The Shins' music sounds, yet how many of their lyrics are just as cynical or mournful. Somehow this odd coupling works very well.
The lyrics in songs like "The Celibate Life" and "Past and Pending" serve as coarse commentaries on unintentional but self destructive paths people take. The prose is really elegant. At times, in fact, it comes close to sounding pretentious; but somehow The Shins know just when to reel the lines in.
The tune that hooked me above all others is "New Slang." Musically, this song best captures the moody essence of The Shins. The lyrics are beautiful and devastating; where many of the words in "Oh, Inverted World" seem to observe human errors and regrets, "New Slang" stands out as a heartbreaking look at unrequited love: "and if you'd 'a took to me like/ a gull takes to the wind/ well, I'd 'a jumped from my tree/ and I'd 'a danced like the King of the eyesores/ and the rest of our lives would 'a fared well." The sweet melancholy lines in this song immediately reminded me of Donovan's "Catch the Wind" (yes, I know I'm exposing both my age and my melodramatic tendencies!). Another wonderful tune that focuses on sentiment and memories is "The Weird Divide."
The other thing that struck me while listening to this CD was that The Shins have a sound all their own, yet I found myself comparing bits and pieces of "Oh, Inverted World" to a mix of bands I've listened to throughout the years. Their music is heartrending in the spirit of early The Moody Blues; their vocal tenderness reminded me of Simon & Garfunkel; and their poignant lyrics have a sorrowful edge similar to those by the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce.
I hope these guys are getting lots of critical and commercial acclaim, because they deserve it; this is the most tight & solid album I have bought in a long time. I have yet to hear their most recent release, but I'm on my way to picking it up, no delay! I hope The Shins keep making music for many years; "Oh, Inverted World" is a tough act to follow, but I am looking forward to every effort they make to outdo themselves. I salute The Shins and their hometown by crying ¡Viva New Mexico! Black Gordman & Goliath would be proud!
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2001
The Shins, yet another outfit crawling from the wreckage of the post-Seattle boom, have released an ultimately impressive debut LP on Sub Pop. This is not your father's pop album. The first cut, "Caring is Creepy", snaps into action with an all too familiar sentiment: 'I think I'll go home and mull this over / before I cram it down my throat.' The entire album, in fact, resonates with a delicate blend of indie-emo poetry (self-loathing) and a lilting yet slamming pop sensibility (self-respect). Replete with memorable guitar schirzos and aggressively sentimental vocals, "O, Inverted World" nestles in that corner of the psyche that wants to simultaneously withdraw from reality and light the world on fire. The final track leaves you with, 'Loiter the whole day through and lose yourself in lines dissecting love.' Can your ultra-famous boy band pop-star say it any better than that? Exactly. Tailor made for fans of Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, Pinback and Pedro the Lion, The Shins' catchy yet foreboding album won't disappoint. Close the blinds, open your ears and dare yourself not to sing along.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2004
Ok, I couldn't really think of a title for this review, but that's not really what matters. Let's go back about, oh, eight or so months ago, when i had strong negative opinions about The Shins. I had dismissed them as a pretentious, flash-in-the-pan, wannabe-indie band without even hearing their music, just going by what I had heard about them. The album cover of their follow-up, Chutes Too Narrow, even pissed me off because of how fruity it looked. So I left them alone.
Fast forward to August 2004. I happen to see a certain movie that features two songs by The Shins on the soundtrack. The depth and emotion of the songs was immediately evident, even in the short snippets presented. I immediately listened to and bought both albums by The Shins. Oh, Inverted World is a brilliant debut album, possibly the best debut since that of Foo Fighters in 1995. While the styles of those two bands are worlds apart, their common ground is the consistant, intriguing melodies heard throughout. "Caring Is Creepy" is one of the all-time best album openers....ever. "Know Your Algebra," "New Slang," and "Girl Inform Me" all roll along with effortless beauty.
I feel a little lame that I become a Shins fan just now after that certain film's success, but somehow "better late than never" doesn't quite cover it. Pretentious? No way. Trying too hard to be "indie"? Not at all. Flash-in-the-pan college rock? Let's hope not, because right now, The Shins are alternative rock's ray of sunshine.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2001
One of the suprising alternative releases of the summer thus far. How do you describe their sound? The echo-heavy vocals from James Mercer sound errily like Brian Wilson and almost as inhuman and difficult to decifer as Michael Stipe. "Oh Inverted World" is like the Beach Boys "Pet Sounds" sessions meets Syd Barrett.
The psychedelic acoustic guitars and cascading harmony of overlapping vocalization is reminiscent of a scratchy Simon & Garfunkel album that you might remember listening just before you passed out after a long night smoking too many J's.
The highlight of the album is "New Slang", a resigned ballad where Mercer sounds as if he were the voice of Brian Wilsons ghost while the band overlaps in a melody that will remind some of the Cocteau Twins.
However, the Shins missed a big opportunity to include the hypnotic and adictive song "Sphagnum Esplanade" from their 7" limited record release. In doing so, "Oh Inverted World" falls just short of one of the best releases of the summer and we lose out on enjoying the best song they've cut in their brief career. Its hard to figure what they were thinking?
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2001
On a lazy Sunday afternoon I went to my local record store, hoping to find something worth hearing. The Shins' 'Oh, Inverted World' happened to be set up at a listening station, so I took a listen, and immediately as 'Caring is Creepy' began, I knew I had struck gold! This CD is incredible...the first listen all the way through, I was more intrigued than anything. As I've listened to it more, it has grown on me more than most any CD can - all of the subtleties are coming through, and each song is absolutely satisfying. I wouldn't change a thing in any one of them. The Shins are (I've read reviews, and a lot of them will throw one or two of these names out, but I swear I thought this before I ever read a single review!) a combination of the Beach Boys, Weezer, and Simon and Garfunkel - 3 bands who I, personally, have in my collection and thoroughly enjoy. However, the Shins are totally unique, totally inspiring. Their sound is simple, yet catchy...and while it's mostly upbeat and uplifting, there is a definite hint of something more to them...a yearning, perhaps, a certain sadness or longing. I cannot recommend this CD highly enough - A+, it's without a doubt worth owning.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2002
I've begun referring to 2002 as the year of the revivalists - the year in which it seems we are finally distanced enough from the roots of rock in the 60s and 70s that "everything old is new again." Having purchased this CD based on the communal recommendation system that said if I liked a particular band, I'd like this CD, I was somewhat surprised at what I actually got. However, I will say that the record has more staying power than I thought it would when I played it the first time.
Many tracks are musically reminiscent of the Sgt. Pepper era Beatles, but the lyrics are more in the vein of Stephin Merritt's Magnetic Fields.
"Oh, Inverted World" is catchy, simple, easy to sing along with, and doesn't get old as quickly as a stick of Fruit Stripe gum. Tracks like "Girl Inform Me" and "Know Your Onion" seem to invite that bobbing, sideways-swaying movement you see in grainy home videos of people watching Woodstock. My 2 year old is often known to say "again!" after the closing chords of "The Celibate Life". This is not to say that The Shins are simplistic - it's just that my 2 year old has impeccable taste.
A solid 3 stars for being a record I enjoy a great deal, but because it smacks of the 60s pop I still like to listen to, I can't give it the points for originality that others think it deserves.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2001
Lush vocal lines and complimentary synth quirks transport the listener into the euphoric world of the Shins.The Shins unique blend of melodic pop trancends classification and stays fresh from song to song. Caring is Creepy opens the the album with a hopeful aire and captivating bounce. The true gems are buried deeper into the track list with Girl On The Wing, New Slang, & Pressed In A Book. Oh, Inverted World is the beginning of something great. Add this to your collection now so you can brag about being down from the beginning.