Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Shins - Fly For A Home

One of the first conceptual bootleg albums I ever compiled, way back in 2008, was a mix of primarily early work from one of my favorite artists, The Shins.

Originally Flake Music, James Mercer's band including many of the current members of The Shins, released many EP's and one full length LP, When You Land Here, It's Time To Return.

As The Shins, they released a very early EP, Nature Bears a Vacuum and the single When I Goosestep.  Their first two albums each also had a B-Side.

This album, Fly For A Home, based on a lyric from the song that I'm guessing inspired the band's name, The Shins (from the Flake Music album), is a mix of these early songs by The Shins and various early tracks from Flake Music.  There are many other tracks by the early band, but many of these are too grungy to sound even reminiscent of The Shins, primarily from their earliest effort, Spork EP.

Overall, this is an interesting documentation of what would become one of the defining bands of the Indie generation.  It's a little less polished and not quite as bubble gum folk, but it is good to know that even James Mercer was inspired heavily by the greats of the time.  Nirvana, Modest Mouse, etc were all on the forefront of the 90's grunge rock scene, and this is apparent in these mid-90's recordings by The Shins.  A great collection, especially for fans of the act.

The Shins - Fly For A Home

Side A:

1.  Roziere 
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)
2.  The Gloating Sun
(When I Goose-step / The Gloating Sun - 2000)
3.  Those Bold City Girls 
(Nature Bears A Vacuum - 1998)
4.  Sue Defender
(Flake Music EP - 1997)
5.  Spanway Hits 
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)
6.  When I Goose-Step 
(When I Goose-step / The Gloating Sun - 2000) 
7.  Mild Child
(Chutes Too Narrow B-Side - 2003)
8.  Totto
(Spork EP - 1995)

Side B:

9.  Eating Styes From Elephant's Eyes
(Nature Bears A Vacuum - 1998)
10.  Submarines
 (Spork EP - 1995)
11.  Whoa, Trish!
(Written for a Gap Commercial - 2002)
12. Sphagnum Esplanade 
(Oh, Inverted World B-Side - 2001)
13.  Kreflo 
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)
14.  My Seventh Rib 
(Nature Bears A Vacuum - 1998)
15.  The Shins
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)
16.  Down Patrol
(Flake Music EP - 1997)
 17.  [Hidden]
(When You Land Here, It's Time To Return - 1999)

Although the album contains many more tracks than most Shins albums, the duration of Fly For A Home is only about 5 minutes longer than their average album.  Like many artists, James Mercer's early work usually consisted of shorter 2-3 minute pieces.  The two longest tracks on the album are the B-Sides they produced for their first two albums.

 Side A gives a subtle yet catchy instrumental intro that seems to summarize well the experience the listener is about to embark on.  It acts almost as the part one to the following track, The Gloating Sun, which was among the first tracks released officially under The Shins moniker.  It is a return to form, with a catchy, almost Beatles-esque electronic fade in with accompanying and standard Shins acoustic guitar.

Track 3 and 4 are grungier, electronic song that still have all of the charm of the bands later work.  Some great vocal melodies grace the spiking guitar work of Those Bold City Girls, where as Sue Defender is a more down tempo tune with an almost punk exterior.

5 and 6 are immensely The Shins.  Spanway hits has the authentic catchy indie style guitar, but Mercer's voice is a bit less experienced and defined.  This leads into probably my favorite track, When I Goosestep.  This screams Chutes Too Narrow and is one of the best unreleased songs in The Shins' catalog.

Side A ends with the B-Side to Chutes Too Narrow, which makes sense why it didn't make the album, as Those To Come fits the bill for that collection's theme.  Being probably their most fulfilling album, it is also understandable why such a great song made the cut, with its haunting and beautiful vocals and building acoustic work.  This moves into a multi-part instrumental from the earliest release featured on Fly For A Home.

The B-Side of the album starts with the two most rockin' songs on the album, including Submarines, which is the earliest song Flake Music ever put out, and sounds like a live recording.  It has some rather pleasing guitar work with Mercer's most punk voice on any track he's ever put out.

A nifty instrumental ditty acts as the segue into the B-Side for Oh, Inverted World, which is probably one of The Shins' most interesting tracks.  Very subdued and an almost apathetic disposition, "and there were stanzas never meant to rhyme," giving a good picture of what they would tackle in depth on their freshman and sophomore efforts.

Next up is another Flake Music track from their self-titled EP and also their LP.  Another sample of Mercer's rather youthful voice.  This leads into a very abrasive electronic tune with intense synth loops and a 60's pop guitar.

The album ends with an early instrumental and a hidden track off When You Land Here, It's Time To Return, ending at 44:42 in total album duration.  Overall, a great treat for anyone missing on early Shins and a little tired of all that folksy stuff.  I'd say this collection is more fulfilling than their more recent work for sure.

I hope you enjoy!  Stay tuned for more mixes, and in the future, I will be tackling the entire Mercer catalog with a rarities anthology that will span 3-4 discs.  Love love love!

-blashco

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