by Tim Crisp (@betteryetpod)
At this point in time, Sheer Mag feels like an institution. From the moment they showed up with their first 7” in September of 2014 everything was firmly in place. A sound indebted to mid-70’s rock n’ roll and the earliest power pop records, a magnetic swagger, and an iconography that seemed to encapsulate it all. That’s why the announcement of their full-length debut, Need To Feel Your Love, probably had a few people doing a double-take. It’s hard to think of a band who’d already established so much before releasing an LP or one that could drum up so much anticipation for a proper debut, but Sheer Mag has always felt like they kind of know what they’re doing and, unsurprisingly, Need To Feel Your Love delivers.
Sheer Mag does not stray far from the established formula. The tight, punchy guitar interplay of Kyle Seely and Matt Palmer sit on top of a versatile rhythm section. Tones are locked in and Tina Halladay’s classic howl is commanding and evocative. There’s a sheen that comes across on the entirety of Need To Feel Your Love but it never feels like the band is pigeonholed with a singular sound. Throughout the twelve tracks, the band moves with finesse between so many subgenres of the time period they worship. Whether it’s stadium rock, P-Funk soul, or Ork singles, they always feel at home.
The record opens with “Meet Me In The Street,” a call out for action and street justice that breathes meaningful air into Need To Feel Your Love. “When you nip at their heels they wanna come on strong / nothing to do but to keep battling on and on and on.” Sheer Mag has never been apolitical. Previous 7” tracks like “Whose Side Are You On?” and “Can’t Stop Fighting” have explored class warfare and social injustices but the placement of “Meet Me In The Street” at track one makes the assertion that while this music is rooted in the past, Sheer Mag is very much a band of the present.
Amidst the chaos, Need To Feel Your Love also feels celebratory. The title track wears the band’s hometown with pride. Shimmering and impossibly groovy, “Need To Feel Your Love” is Philly soul through and through. Sort of a David Bowie’s Young Americans with distortion. It’s a sound they return to on the song “Pure Desire” with similarly great results. It's a very exciting development in the band’s evolution, if there's anything to be disappointed about with Need To Feel Your Love it’s that the soulful vibes are limited to these two tracks. Nevertheless both tracks lend themselves very well to repeated listens.
Sheer Mag’s influences are an easy point of focus. Sure, they sound like Thin Lizzy, they sound like AC/DC, etc. But it's the songwriting that keeps these obvious facts from becoming a quick critique. The influences never feel like they're leaned on to make up for a lack of originality, rather they become a rallying cry and a point of celebration. Sheer Mag loves rock n’ roll and they run a brand that's nothing but heart.