I write about songs.

The Shins, “New Slang”

When I first heard this song, back in 2001, it made me intensely nostalgic for my teenagehood in the 1980s. There was the beginning line, “a curse for this town”—I had grown up in a small suburb, and the Shins captured the feeling of wanting to live a different life somewhere else, but also being hopelessly attached to the place where you were from. Doesn’t the music remind you a little bit of biking around leaf-shaded streets?

But then what else punched my ’80s buttons? Something about the lyrics, which seem to be the words of a guy addressing someone he loved in the past who didn’t love him back? (“I was happier then … If you’d took to me …” etc.) Except that I didn’t have any particular situation like that in my life to look back upon and feel sorry about. Something about the poky, lo-fi acoustics? “New Slang” first reminded me of the Rain Parade, an underground band I liked a lot in the mid-’80s who, upon revisiting them later in life, I found to be crushingly boring. Except I don’t find the Shins boring at all—in fact, I love them—and comparing the two, the Shins don’t really sound anything like the Rain Parade. This video would seal the deal. The band members very cleverly reenact the covers of famous American albums from the ’80s, by underground groups by Slint, the Minutemen, Squirrel Bait, and Husker Du. Except I only listened to two of these records, The Replacements’ “Let it Be” and Cat Power’s “Moon Pix,” neither of which are among my favorite records of all time or anything. So the song and video make me feel nostalgic for an experience I didn’t have, and the covers of albums I mostly didn’t own, by evoking music that wasn’t so good anyway. But there’s no denying that minor key melody, that sad whistling.


Earworms is now just about one year old. Thanks, readers, for following this blog, and making the process of sharing my music-related thoughts so rewarding.

Written by peterterzian

December 29, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Posted in The Shins


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