Don’t let that T. Rex-invoking album title fool you into thinking that Buffalo, NY, threesome the Tins are early ‘70s glam revivalists – their debut full-length owes much more to ‘80s post-punk, college rock and modern indie than the eyeliner-and-sequined-elevator-boot set. If that sounds like a band merely mining a different, slightly newer set of calendar pages, hey, there’s nothing new under the sun, and these guys confidently resurrect the sounds they love throughout Life’s a Gas.
Basically, the trio – keyboardist/singer Mike Santillo, drummer Dave Muntner and guitarist/singer Adam Putzer – answer the rarely asked question, What would it have sounded like if the Shins played the US Festival in 1983? (It certainly helps that frontman Santillo has one of those James Mercer-nary upper register voices.) From the synth-poppy opener “Hit and Miss”, the herky-jerky “Taking Liberties”, and the discofied “Please Be Kind”, these guys take the best snippets of early post-punk and adapt it nicely for today’s delicate indie sensibilities.
More important than aping the post-punk sound, they capture the nervous energy, paranoia and disassociation of the era as well – it’s an interesting contrast to the ethereal album title, and helps separate the band from the hoi polloi. “It makes me uncomfortable to know that there are spies like me”, warns Santillo (I think) on “Spies”, looking over his own shoulder over a vintage late-Cold War-era keyboard run. Meanwhile, the narrator of “Midnight Crowd” floats on the fringes of a scene, “taking stills and hiding out”, but seems to be longing for authentic connection; the power poppy “Vicki” plays the same notion for a chuckle: “Just a virgin, a virgin with the urges”; elsewhere, the Franz Ferdinand-y “Please Be Kind” resorts to frenetic pleading (“Won’t you say something I can handle?”) Only “Shozo Hirono”, a Donald Fagen-esque low-life character sketch, doesn’t tap into this wellspring of nerves and societal dissonance.
The Tins tap into all the right sounds and all the right feelings on Life’s a Gas. As time wears on, will they keep playing the ‘80s card, or will they hew closer to a modern indie sound. I’d be happy to hear more of the former, but fortunately for them, they’re well-equipped to do both.