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Where Have They Been?: The Shins make a surprise return, but as a very different act 

The Shins return, but is this now a James Mercer solo project?

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I've never been struck by lightning and with statistics on my side, I'm going to guess that neither have you. But the last time I saw The Shins I was moderately concerned that I was going to move from the "not been struck by lightning" majority to breathe the rarified air within the "has been struck by lightning" fraternity.

If you were at this show back in August of 2007, you weren't just a potential victim of nearby lightning storms, but you also saw one of the last performances by The Shins. And not just in Bend, but anywhere, because in the last few years, The Shins, which were at one time the definitive indie-pop rock band out there, have undergone lineup changes, breakup rumors and, of course, front man James Mercer's new career as part of Broken Bells.

You were likely surprised to find out that The Shins are playing three small venue shows in the coming week, including a stop in Bend, before their headlining gig at the Outside Lands festival down in San Francisco. I was sure as hell stunned when the news came over midway through our production of this issue. In case you'd given up on this band, let us bring you up to speed on what's happened in the world of The Shins since they last came to our neck of the woods to almost get us all killed.

The Long Quiet: Despite the fact that Wincing The Night Away was far and away the band's most successful and sonically advanced album, The Shins returned to Portland after a marathon touring schedule supporting the album, planning on taking an extended break. But soon after, Mercer fired drummer Jesse Sandoval and keyboardist Marty Crandall, both members of the band since its formation in Albuquerque. Sandoval, who is now operating a popular Mexican food cart in Portland, told the Portland Mercury, "... it might be hard for him to say it, but...I got fired. There's no other way of looking at it." Around this time, the band also left iconic Seattle label Sub Pop to join Mercer's own label.

Broken Bells: "It had started to feel heavy," Mercer told NME.com about The Shins when describing his decision to head in a new direction. Specifically, this meant teaming up with Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) for the hook-laden sounds of Broken Bells. The duo's eponymous debut was one of the most critically acclaimed records of 2010. No matter what anyone says, some of those songs still sound mighty Shins-ey to me. And that's a good thing.

The Return: In May, any speculation as to the future of The Shins was quelled with the announcement of the Outside Lands music festival, the humongous San Francisco three-day party that had The Shins listed near the top of the lineup. Fans rejoiced as rumors of a new album began to pop up and were eventually confirmed.

The Surprise Tour: Having not performed since 2009 and never playing in public under a newly announced lineup, The Shins camp announces a three-day Oregon tour of small venues just days before they're set to take place. In addition to Bend's Domino Room, The Shins are also slated to play Eugene's W.O.W. Hall and Portland's Doug Fir Lounge. The announcement of the show also reveals thelatest Shins lineup, featuring (in addition to Mercer, of course) Yuuki Matthews (of Crystal Skulls) on bass, Jessica Dobson on guitar, Richard Swift on keys and Joe Plummer (of Modest Mouse) on drums. The shows are expected to feature new tunes from a forthcoming Shins album due out in 2012.

The Shins

8pm Tuesday, August 9. The Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave. $25/advance, $28/door. Tickets available only ticketswest.com. 21 and over.

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