'It’s the means to a terrible end,' James Mercer sings about halfway through Name For You, the first track on the new album by The Shins – and he might as well be talking about the terrible things he has done to a once great band.
Once, The Shins were a band, albeit possibly only in the minds of everyone but James Mercer. Post their third album and biggest success, Wincing the Night Away, Mercer sacked everyone, saying he always preferred bands that were effectively auteurs posing as bands (Mercer thinks he’s an auteur).
And since then we’ve had 2012’s so-so Port of Morrow, two terrible Broken Bells albums in which Mercer collaborated with Danger Mouse and now this, the worst Shins album in the history of Shins albums. There isn’t a song on Heartworms that doesn’t have you pining for older better Shins songs. Heartworms is the album The Cars would make if they reformed now (Half a Million will transport you back to the 1980s and force you to watch No Limits for 3m23s, which is far more unpleasant than it sounds). Songs do battle for worst song. Is it Painting a Hole? Is it Rubber Ballz? The voice is way too high in the mix and the lyrics are charmlessly self-conscious (Mildenhall, we’re looking at you).
Aimless and fussy, Heartworms sounds like the kind of album a person with slightly too much money, their own studio and a massive ego would make. Crushingly disappointing, this is, alas, no return to form.
Listen to: Name for You, Mildenhall