Review: Sheer Mag I, II, & III

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by Ryan Bright

Sheer Mag emerged out of the Philly scene, which is a host of talent in and of itself with bands like Hop Along and Modern Baseball. While those bands have an emo flair to them, Sheer Mag is flipping shit on its head by embodying punk rock that channels straight-laced, 70′s powerpop kind of music that you’d hear in this day and age. The production is rough but the jams are there -- and ultimately, that’s what matters.

The calling card for “II” is perhaps their catchiest song to date, “Fan the Flames.”  Instantly you get a earworm of guitar, followed by Tina’s wailing. It’s reminiscent of Brittany from Alabama Shakes, but Tina’s vocals are looser and less refined. “Fan the Flames” is a bit of a misleading song as it is at times soulful, like Motown, and not at all indicative of some of their more involved work. When Tina allows her voice to trail off during the final deliverance of “That’s the man you gotta give it toooooooo,” a single tear falls from my eye.

Contrast that with another favorite of mine, “What You Want” which is the leading song from “I.”  The vocal melody in this song somewhat approximates Taylor Swift’s pre-chorus in “Shake It Off.”  But the highlight of this song is the guitar work that is absolutely “shreddy.”  “Hard Lovin’” is another highlight from “I,” and it perfectly embodies the 70′s vibe with the line “She gave me hard lovin’ baby.” When the band delivers well placed “oh oh’s” and “yeah yeah’s” at the end, you have a recipe for a song that hits its intended effect pretty well.

Then there’s “III,” which is home to my favorite track in their whole body of work, “Can’t Stop Fighting.”  This song has a very “singable” guitar permeating throughout it, and the guitar work at the end does this nice thing where it pitches up and pairs with another guitar for a “double” effect.  This is “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Sheer Mag’s standards.  It’s simply incredible and I always find myself enjoying those last 30 seconds.  “Nobody’s Baby,” which closes out “III,” has “single” written all over it, and is a good introduction to their music just like “Fan the Flames.”  This has a strong Cars-vibe to it and I love the lyrics in this, especially: “I wanna feel the midnight heat, and my stomach drop when you take my hand.” “Nobody’s Baby” is a really old-timey sentiment that works with their whole ethos.