A bland return from US melody masters
Not to be confused with the epochal Whipping Boy album with which it shares a similar name (and which was released on the same record label), The Shins' fifth offering is all sugar rush synth melodies and plinky piano.
Mostly upbeat music to mask frontman James Mercer’s struggles with the growing pains of getting old. Sucks, eh?
The rinky dinky sound shares a similar DNA to the fizzy pop of early noughties noodlers The Postal Service on Cherry Bombs and, less impressively, the egregious Owl City on far too many of these new songs.
The churchy meets Wurlitzer swirl of Fantasy Island is a highlight and on Mildenhall, Mercer sketches out a potted biography with laid-back countrified affection, from learning his first chords on his dad’s guitar to high school crushes.
Closing track The Fear is worthy of Rufus Wainwright for its baroque music and lyrical archness ("we pass another pointless year/foaming at the mouth") but strangely, the title track manages to weave a Johnny Marr-like guitar pattern and yet still manage to drift into blandness.
It's all a bit dinner party emo-rock - the angst having given way to mellow doubt and resignation. Heartworms is pretty and pretty uninvolving. Not quite Whipping Boy so.
Alan Corr @corralan