By Trent Warner
Wilsuns Recording Company
After three noteworthy EPs (Compilation I, II, III), Sheer Mag’s first official full-length has been unleashed on the world. It lacks the grittiness and DIY ethic that made their earlier work so enthralling, but is chock full of ‘70s power pop and political overtones that the band’s fans have come to love. Each song maintains that the personal is political, making for a worthwhile listen from start to finish.
Singer Tina Halladay’s voice is equal parts Poly Styrene, Tina Turner, and Cherie Currie. It is gritty, commanding, and takes no shit. Unfortunately, she isn’t able to polish the rough edges enough to garner more widespread attention. When she emotes too personally, such as on slow burner “Milk and Honey,” it can come across disingenuous or even hokey. She and the rest of Sheer Mag aren’t afraid of their feelings, though. Each song feels punk and radical because of their body and sex-positive themes.
This is also kind of brilliant, considering the rampant misogyny, homophobia, and racism of acts who might have loosely inspired their protometal sound (Think Kiss or Black Sabbath). The juxtaposition is unexpected and makes the album refreshing, where most new releases from the aforementioned bands can feel contrived. Midway through the album, “Suffer Me” offers an inspired-account of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, where black and Latina trans women dared to fight back against police brutality. After the riot is over, Halladay laments, “…And there was one less boot, pressing down on one less throat.” Despite reflecting on the past, with Trump’s Ban on trans people in the military and continued cuts to healthcare, it feels particularly relevant.
Throughout the album, Sheer Mag are most successful when they’re subverting the protometal/power pop genre they draw inspiration from. Whether that’s employing ooey-gooey, funk-infused guitars (as on “Need to Feel Your Love”), or inciting a hard rock disco rampage (as on “Just Can’t Get Enough). Halladay sings with such admiration on the latter that you can’t help but want to get up, jump around, and shout your love from a mountain top.
But, for all of the album’s highs, there are lows and they often entertain the genre’s past clichés, leading to songs that border on cringe worthy. “Meet me on the Streets,” is a call to action against police brutality, but the reliance on a too-long and too-repetitious lick makes the song teeter with familiarity and platitude. Overall, there’s not enough variance from the band’s earlier work to make for a thrilling full-length, but there are noteworthy singles that shine through.Need to Feel Your Love, Record Review, Sheer Mag