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Bargain Bin Babylon: Shift: Get In

Bargain Bin Babylon: Shift: Get In

Get In stands not only as a testament to almost making it, but also as a pretty decent bit of alt-rock in its own right.

I don’t know how I ended up at the show, particularly since I was never much of an Our Lady Peace fan. Maybe my roommate gave me a free ticket. I can’t remember much about OLP either, except that they did a quality cover of “Dear Prudence” that night. But I do remember opening band Shift. I’d never heard of them until that night. The band’s energy started high and stayed there and—memory likely colored by nostalgia, I’m sure—the crowd responded. The performance was driven by drummer Samantha Maloney, who seemed intent on smashing everything. Bassist Brandon Simpson stood out to me, too, and not only because shortly afterward I met him in the bathroom as he tended a bloody nose.

Inexplicably, I bought a T-shirt but not a CD at the merch stand. Maybe they were sold out, but with Get In having come out less than a week before (September 23, 1997) that seems unlikely. Maybe I only had 10 bucks on me and figured I’d get the CD later. But in those days, with limited online shopping options, I mostly browsed the few shops in my small college town and hoped for treasures in the used bins. While I was busy wearing out the shirt, it took almost seven years before I managed to come across a copy of the album. For a few dollars, I could jump back in time.

Of course, my tastes had changed, and Shift on CD wasn’t the same as Shift on stage. The tunes were there, but they’re tamed. While fans and critics both tend to classify Shift as post-hardcore, there’s little of those origins here. Get In came out on Sony, and it feels like the radio-brand alt-rock of the time. That’s not exactly a criticism, but when you associate a band with a furious drummer and a bleeding bassist, hearing the sort of record that teenage you and your parents might have agreed upon comes as a surprise. We get moments where we can feel some metal wanting to come out, or a little sludge underlying everything. “Rhythm of You” works fine, but it could have been a heavy smash. “Numb” could have gone just a little darker to really find itself; there’s a brightness to the general tone that never lets the band quite go to those places.

Yet another decade later, Shift sounds like a near-miss. The performances suffer a little from that era’s production style, but Joshua Loucka’s songwriting remains smart. Tracks like “In Honor of Myself” and “I Want to Be Rich” mark a Gen X approach to embracing and hating fame, wrapped in pop hooks. This quartet clearly listened to Dischord records, mourned Cobain and took note of Dave Grohl. Foo Fighters make a better fit for them than some of their edgier peers. In hindsight, it’s apparent they could have gone harder and more punk, maybe opened for Stone Temple Pilots and gotten their MTV run.

As it is, the group left us with a couple solid albums and then moved on. Spacesuit still gets some love from fans, partly because that 1995 debut is considered to be more of the “true” band before they got a big label deal. Guitarist Mark Holcomb has taken some of the metal sounds and gone on to the proggy Periphery. Maloney, who started the band while still in high school, has turned her bombast and skill into a run that, reflecting on that concert, makes total sense, including stints with Mötley Crüe, Hole and Eagles of Death Metal. As Shift’s one great chance to break through, Get In stands not only as a testament to almost making it, but also as a pretty decent bit of alt-rock in its own right.

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