A couple of years ago, when the Shins were just getting ready to release their third album, Wincing the Night Away, lead Shin James Mercer told Pitchfork, “One thing I worry about is that Malcolm Gladwell tipping point — it’s kind of like once you start to play the game of trying to be huge, there’s nowhere to go but down.” As it happened, Wincing debuted at No. 2 on the album charts and sold more than 100,000 copies in its first week. That may have been the tipping point right then.
After touring for a year in support of Wincing, the Shins took much of the past year off. Mercer played a few solo shows. He made plans to release the next Shins album on his own new record label, which may or may not be affiliated with Sub Pop, the label that has been the Shins’ home since their beloved 2001 debut, Oh, Inverted World. (Presumably, Sub Pop wants the Shins to stay, seeing as how they’re the biggest act they’ve had since the heyday of Seattle grunge.)
So, where does all this leave the Shins? Can they continue on just as before, secure in their status as America’s favorite indie act? Maybe not, with the glow of Garden State now well faded. And let’s not forget the Arcade Fire and all the other Canadians stealing the Shins’ thunder. Fact is, the Shins have always seemed like unlikely candidates for superstardom. Mercer is a brilliant songwriter who has a knack for making oddball pop with mass appeal. He’s probably got a career’s worth of good songs in him still. But the masses may not stick around to hear them.
SHINS: Soma, Monday, May 11, 7 p.m. 619-226-7662. $28.