'Cheap beer and Rock and Roll. Which in time, put things in my mind...'
The Shins have a new album called Heartworms coming out soon. I'll get back to it when it comes out, on my mother's birthday, the 10th of March. In the meantime, here's the pre-release single Mildenhall. This is the name of a town in Suffolk, England where James Mercer, the man behind The Shins, relocated as a fifteen year old with his family from the States to the military airbase located there.
It's a beautiful song about all those precious memories of formative youth and the way we deal with them as time passes and we get further and further away from them but the experiences we had then stay within us, foment and change strangely within us as time passes. It's driven wonderfully by the tip tap rhythm of English rain, so much a part of our national condition every bit as much as our perennial climate. Oddly for me, I've heard it just now only a day after I was invited, out of the blue, to a university reunion just slightly up the map from Mildenhall in Norwich, Norfolk where I started in 1985 round about the time Mercer arrived in Mildenhall and the idea begins percolating in my head about revisiting that city, one I haven't been back to since I eventually graduated five years later and meeting up with a whole set of people I haven't seen since those times.
The song anyhow is a perfectly realised evocation of both times past and life continued. How memories can be such sweet things when you allow them to live again, but also about how you inevitably end up like Mercer, older but not necessarily wiser, sitting in a bar drinking beer, travelling on the London Underground, or just standing in the street. all the time rekindling these moments in your head. For Mercer it's also about the time when the idea started germinating in his head to become a musician: 'I started messing with my dad's guitar/Taught me some chords just to set me off/ Whittling away on those rainy days. That's how we get to where we are..' A beautiful resolution to the idea that the song contains. These things can be sweet as I already said, but they can also be bitter and corrosive and it's up to you to ensure that you come to the same conclusion as Mercer and it ultimately remains the former. It's always good to look back but always make sure you keep going forward if you can, as that's what we were put here to do.