First things first, the CD packaging for ‘Feather In A Fire’, the latest release for the ominously named Shady Brain Farm, is truly impressive. Not only in its cover design, which is an unusual concoction of acid-tinged pop art and freaky monster imagery, but also in a wider sense, with a double-sided band poster inlay adding an immediate connection with our subjects. The Auckland three-piece’s music is less easy to categorise, with the 12-track album throwing up a genuine hybrid of styles and influences – from ska and cod reggae, to power pop, to what can only be described as some form of arty psychedelic surf rock. And often, it feels like the flit between genres is only the clever flick of an FX pedal away for guitarist and vocalist Ben Furniss. Yet it’s likely this artistic ambiguity is a deliberate ploy, a firm if unspoken modus operandi, and if variety really is the spice of this thing called life, then here is a colourful upsized carton of tasty soul food. It’s that freedom from any stylistic prejudice, and the refusal to be easily labelled, which is perhaps the album’s biggest strength.