Sheer Mag have enjoyed a steady and assured rise since their first extended player arrived in 2014. Each consecutive year since then they have put out a well-received EP, and the three releases were collected together for the wryly titled Compilation. Much like that collection’s title left little to the imagination, Sheer Mag are a band wearing their influences conspicuously; they are a DIY punk and ’70s five-piece that will rock you hard, and harder, and then harder, and… well, you get the gist.
What they achieve with massive riffs, heavy hooks and Tina Halladay’s thundering vocal is 100% crowd pleasing music. They open their debut record with Meet Me In The Street, replete with a roaring crowd section. It no doubt anticipates what they’ll likely face following the release of this album. This is big rousing music, sure to find an audience that belies their low-key beginnings.
Need To Feel Your Love oscillates between dizzying odes to intoxicating love through to socio-political statements. The former can be found on I Just Can’t Get Enough, which yowls, “Yeah, my head’s spinning from your love,” while the latter is evident on Expect The Bayonet: “If you don’t give us the ballot, expect the bayonet.” On both counts, the record squares up defiantly to the issue at hand. Suffer Me centres around the Stonewall Riots, and acts as an anthem for gay rights as Halladay sings the chorus’ challenge, “You got to suffer me.” Equally, love songs like the title track are just as unequivocal: “I give you just what you want/but I’m saying/now you got to give me just what I need.”
The record’s musical approach is also unambiguous in its attitude. The aforementioned title track plays out with a vintage strut that echoes Alabama Shakes’ soulful grooves. But for most of the record Sheer Mag are all about rocking up hard in your face, none more so than on Turn It Up. The track rams home the power cords in the vein of Deep Purple’s Highway Star, and what it might lack in originality, it makes up for with fevered tenacity and exuberance.
Tina Halladay’s vocal style will no doubt draw countless comparisons to Beth Ditto, but hers is a voice closer that of Brian Johnson than Ditto’s punkish delivery. There’s a welcome change of pace in Pure Desire, fitted out as it is with a disco-influenced bass line, playful guitar licks, and Halladay’s most restrained performance. The danceable groove is a welcome interlude from the defiant rock of the rest of the record.
Need To Feel Your Love has lost some of the raw and raucous energy of the band’s earlier recordings via smoother production, but it’s as ballsy and as fun an album as you’re likely to hear this year. At times it relies too heavily on retro stylings, with a resulting sometimes rather one-dimensional sheen, meaning that the more serious messages the band are expressing can get lost in the mix. But as far as ’70s tailored rousing rock in 2017 goes, Sheer Mag’s work is best in class.