Have A Cunning Plan

The Shifters ‎SKU: TIM138



Any band that would recycle a running joke from Blackadder for the title of its debut album clearly has a sense of humor. But while the Shifters are a very witty band, that's hardly the only thing they have going for them, judging from their first full-length release, 2018's Have a Cunning Plan. Firm adherents to the lo-fi aesthetic, the Shifters make music that's structurally spare and short on virtuosity, but their tunes have more than their share of catchy melodies and unexpected hooks, and while the clank of the rhythm guitars and the flat report of Miles Jansen's lead vocals bear a certain resemblance to the Fall, the homespun buoyancy of the tunes and the guileless enthusiasm of the band's attack recall the Clean and other acts from the early Flying Nun roster. (Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, it's hard to say just how strongly the Shifters would be influenced by their neighbors to the East in New Zealand, but who knows?) The production on Have a Cunning Plan is utterly unobtrusive, sounding something like a soundboard tape from a gig at a local D.I.Y. venue. But that also adds to the charm of the album, as it captures the Shifters in what sounds like their natural environment, in playful but well-focused form, and the musicians -- Jansen on guitar and vocals, Tristan Davies on guitar and vocals, Chris Gray on guitar and bass, Louise Russell on keyboards and vocals, and Ryan Coffey on drums -- generate a distinctive and effective sound with lots of personality. And "Work/Life, Gym Etc," "Medieval Kicks!," and "Boer Hymn" confirm these folks aren't taking things too seriously, but that's not a bad thing when the joke is actually funny. (And "Straight Lines" is one of the few songs about an experience common to rock fans, figuring out how many beers you can afford after paying the cover charge.) The Shifters aren't changing the world as we know it on Have a Cunning Plan, but they're playing smart, fun rock & roll without frills or pretension, and that's a plan that nearly always pays off.

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