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Last man standing 

The Shins' James Mercer gathers new bandmates and sinks to new lows on major-label debut

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The Shins

Point of Morrow
(Aural Apothecary/Columbia)

These alleged Shins – only chief architect and egotist James Mercer remains of the group that restored faith in lean guitar pop with 2003's Chutes Too Narrow – are tailor-made for a Garden State revision, replacing the leads with surly golfers and the line “the Shins will change your life” with “the Shins will sound nice piped into the lower level of your yacht.”

Their years-late major label debut is a rehash fest; the showpiece “Simple Song” is just “Gone for Good” buffed with layers of Jeff Lynne sheen like 1986 never ended. The heartbreakingly gooey mess descends ever further into Mercer's doldrums until it reaches past self-parody into gothic horror. Along the way you get MOR power-ballad obnoxiousness, lite-jazz and boredom, but the low point is when he lays it all out: “Taken for a fool / Yes I was, because I was a fool.” Mercer let five years lapse between albums, and now his career rides on a notion that anonymity sells. In the age of chillwave and Spotify playlists, it's enough to make you a hardline cynic – especially because he's probably right.

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