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On each of their past two albums, the San Francisco new wave noise punks POW! moved further from the scratchy lo-fi attack of the debut Hi-Tech Boom and closer to a slicker, poppier version of that sound. Their fourth album, 2019's Shift, not only halts the progression but moves to an even more avant-garde, borderline bonkers approach. The duo of Byron Blum (guitar/vocals) and Melissa Blue (synth/vocals) are joined by Froth drummer Cameron Allen and producer Thomas Dolas and they concoct a sound that is more angular, more nervous, and twice as twitchy as anything they've recorded yet. Blum's deadpan vocal hysteria is amped up a bit, his guitar is ugly and loud, Blue's keyboards are tough enough to cut steel, Allen whacks the living hell out of his tinny drums, and Dolas tunes it all for AM radio transmission. It almost sounds like a different band at times, especially on the more volatile tracks like "Disobey" and "Metal & Glue" or the arty, almost novelty-ish "Peter." Sometimes they seem like the old POW!, only wound a little tighter, like on the hooky "Dream Decay," but mostly they come across like POW! after a car crash, where their pieces were all shattered and put back together in a new, slightly disconcerting fashion. The reason why the record works, despite the sometimes off-putting harshness of the sounds and shuddering clunkiness of the rhythms, is simple. Unlike many bands who try to pull off this kind of super-arty switch to something defiantly anti-pop, they don't lean too far in that direction. In other words, POW! remembered to make the songs fun and catchy along with being super weird and noisy. On first listen, it might disappoint fans who were expecting them to continue along the pop path, but after one or two spins to allow for the proper calibration, Shift ends up being just as much of a post-punk, new wave, outsider pop gem as any of their other work.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 02:08
2 02:59
3 02:44
4 03:00
5 04:02
6 03:36
7 02:06
8 03:29
9 00:54
10 02:41
11 03:25
blue highlight denotes track pick