It may be unfair to say Portland's The Minders and The Shins are, lumped together, an unentertaining waste of time, and then to blame it on the hometown they share, but, as they say: You can take the insipid pop out of the town, but you can't take the town out of the insipid pop. It is true that I have a beef with the city of Portland, Oregon, and, to really push it, the entire state of Oregon, since trips I've made to Beaverton, Corvallis, and Eugene consisted of outlet shopping, Sizzler, and drinking multiple cans of Pabst outside of a Mike Watt show, respectively. It may have something to do with the fact that I've taken up residence 90 minutes away, in teensy Olympia, Washington, and envy Powell's Books, Oregon's full-service gas stations, and lack of sales tax.
Pop music's fine with me. Derivative, irritating, badly done, badly recorded pop music is often even better. Even if that earthquake hadn't hit last week--wouldn't you know, Portland didn't get it half as bad as we did--I've been nearly hit by buses enough times to know that life is far too short for mop-topped bartenders to be dragging out that jangly guitars and tambourines and "la-la-la-la" chorus routine when they're pushing 30. I know what the Byrds sound like, and the Kinks, and I have several of their records at home. It's fine to listen to the past, but not to live in it.
Olympia's not all that free and clear of the "la-la-la-la" disease either, and it makes the trio Enemymine so much more refreshing. A combination of two basses and a drum kit led by Mike Kunka (formerly of the equally heavy godheadSilo), Enemymine is neither dumb hard-core nor neo-metal nor self-important art rock. Its fall release on Up Records, The Ice in Me, is dually exhilarating and harrowing and full of overwhelming moments that make such perfect sense, such as the end verse of "Setting the Traps": "While you're away/We're here waiting/Building cities/Feeling shitty/Setting the traps/For you/Please please please/Come home."
The end question remains: If giddy melodies come off stale, and pained percussion gives me a rush, where does that leave pop?