Reviewed by: Geno Thackara
If I hadn’t known what I was listening to, dropping in on the middle of Blame-Shifter might have made me wonder if I’d stumbled on some newly unearthed piece of early-’90s R.E.M.; the moody centerpiece of “Alleluia” is a bewitching minor acoustic strum that almost could have come straight out of Out of Time (and Jonathan Jackson’s murmur does have more than a hint of Michael Stipe to it). It’s definitely not a one-note affair, however, as that tune is sandwiched among some hard-hitting pieces spanning the last couple decades of guitar rock. There’s an interesting mix here that also channels some big-chorus U2 and a touch of raucous punk.
Jackson and his rhythm section Enation start by turning up the amps for a hook that could get a club bouncing in 5/8… well, at least if it’s early in the set and nobody’s too drunk to count yet. The EP’s following title track looks like it could be about anger or injustice, but in the context of its chorus, the phrase turns out to mean the opposite. “Blame-shifter / no longer,” Jackson wails like Geddy Lee on a particularly good night. “I hate the sins of my enemy / but I am the same.” The lyrical theme seems to be mainly about maturity. In the end it’s less about anger than moving beyond it, even if you could still bang your head while singing along.
It’s interesting that those introspective lines make for the most anthemic rocking tune here, which further suggests this trio is a bit more thoughtful or philosophical than your stereotypical alt-rock group. Very soon they’re slowing to a sway with “Wasteland,” the common kind of set-closing piano ballad that lets Jackson show the other side of what he can do as a singer. It’s a lovely autobiographical piece, even if it could do with just a bit more subtlety.
For a bonus track there’s a simple live performance of “Unchained Melody” – an odd and very out-of-place pick, but probably still a bonus if that’s a song you know and like. Maybe it’s there to help pad out the running time (23 minutes and change), but I’d say that’s not even necessary. Seemingly the main purpose here is to offer a preview of the band’s full-length that’s coming later in the year, and their handful of originals is already more than enough to get us excited for what’s next.