Between September 2014 and March 2016, Philadelphia’s Sheer Mag released three seven inches comprised of four songs each. The singles’ twelve blistering punk rock and roll songs were then released on vinyl and as a digital album as COMPILATION (I, II, & III) and subsequently let loose on an unsuspecting world in January of this year. Sheer Mag, anxious to take advantage of the momentum, set to work immediately on what would be their first studio album, Need to Feel Your Love.
Any question as to what can be expected from the songs on the group’s debut, in terms of style and content, are answered in the first two tracks on Need to Feel Your Love. The inspired and energetic opener, “Meet Me in the Street”, finds the band tearing into a tough AC/DC-inspired rocker that has lead singer Tina Halladay viciously giving the business to “silver spoon suckers” and “the boys in blue.” The record’s title track follows, and while significantly more upbeat and optimistic both lyrically and musically, is no less enthusiastic. The rest of the songs on Need to Feel Your Love follow similarly, ping-ponging between fist-in-the-air sociopolitical headbangers, and danceable near-disco numbers that cleverly utilize dexterous lead guitar and bass interplay.
The production on Need to Feel Your Love remains consistent throughout. What you see is pretty much what you get. Studio add-ins are minimal, and the rare moments when a keyboard or sound effect gets dropped into the mix happen so seamlessly that listeners may not notice until the second or third listen. Halladay’s vocals are treated with a subtle echo, helping to emphasize her grittiest moments, and while the guitars and drums sound cheaply recorded, their more than capable operators perform at a level so high the lo-fi quality only enhances the band’s garage rock feel.
Obvious standouts include the record’s first single, “Just Can’t Get Enough”, a gritty, catchy-as-hell, fist-pumping 70s-inspired track that has guitarist Kyle Seely ripping soaring solos all over and in-between Halladay’s sharp verses. Side two’s “Pure Desire” finds Sheer Mag at their absolute grooviest, with Hart Seely’s super-funky, nimble bass-work featured prominently. Halladay’s direct lyrics and attitude are well-suited to the album’s overall tone, but her passion cuts through lyrically on a more essential level. Whether she’s reminiscing about a past romance as in the album’s title track where she sings, “When I see the sun bend over the trees, if I’m lying baby that’d be all I ever need,” or when she’s setting a mood before schooling Sheer Mag fans on the importance of anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl, “The walls were closing in the night, and it’s a long darkness, when fear snuffs out the only light,” Halladay utilizes nature to great effect, fleshing out each song, angry or otherwise, in a universally relatable poetry.
Need to Feel Your Love is a solid debut. Although the band’s influences are obvious, Sheer Mag have set themselves apart with their unique mix of tough sociopolitical commentary and tender intimacy paired with infectious, hard rocking bangers and slickly danceable grooves. This is a group that has done their homework and has a strong sense of their strengths and how to utilize them to greatly enlightened and entertaining effect.