Philadelphia, PA’s Sheer Mag just released their ‘official’ debut album, ‘Need to Feel Your Love’. It felt like a long wait after getting that prior release. Having the collection of Sheer Mag’s first three EPs, called ‘Compilation’, was a double-edged. A convenient, comprehensive collection of their material was great, but finding something equally satisfying was a bit difficult for a brief spell. The idea of an imminent full-length follow-up in the near future was an upside. Thankfully, the time has come and ‘Need to Feel Your Love’ lives up to the promise of the material that led up to this victorious debut LP.
Sheer Mag has a ‘punk rock’ spirit that’s at the vanguard of their attack, but they’re capable of extraordinary things. As a band, they play with a tightness like the Allman Brothers had, they write real songs, really well, like Fleetwood Mac did, and they can be stylistically diverse, like Blondie is. Their six-stringers, Matt Palmer and Kyle Seely, have bags of riffs that seem to bottomless and they make Sheer Mag a guitar-driven juggernaut. Bassist Hart Seely and drummer Ian Dykstra tend to be relatively understated and always tightly packed in that vital rhythm pocket, a la Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts or Cliff Williams and Phil Rudd.
‘Need to Feel Your Love’s cogent arrangement keeps the energy potent and it keeps strength in the flow. It’s opener, “Meet Me in the Street,” is a rowdy, insubordinate street anthem that channels tones of pre-1980 AC/DC with its balls-out rock & roll rawness blaring in grand fashion. Tight rhythm driven movers and shakers, like “Pure Desire” and the title track, have hints of funk and soul on the surface and come ready for the dancefloor, while songs like “Rank and File,” which has undertones of American glitter-glam, and the arena-ready “Turn It Up,” are straight up rock & roll cuts.
“Suffer Me” is about half way through the track list and it probably best exemplifies the full dimension of ‘Need to Feel Your Love’ as an album. Kyle Seely’s opening is alive and lays out some flavor with a Telecaster twang. His brother, Hart, steps in with a jive-walking bass line, Matt Palmer’ second guitar brings some jangle and a twin guitar harmony hook, then the funk from Ian Dykstra’s drums comes in to carry the song and makes bodies move. The song is built and it becomes a total sum of its individual parts, working together, like the album does.
For all intents and purposes, this is an emotional album that’s got a pervasive presence of defiance. Songs like “Meet Me in the Street,” ”Rank and File,” and “Turn it Up” convey in an abstract sense, while “Suffer Me”—about the NYC Stonewall riot in 1968—and “(Say Goodbye to) Sophie Scholl”—an homage to the 21 year old anti-nazi activist—illustrate a reverence for that in true history. The latter also happens to have what is the most memorable choral hook on the album. Singer Tina Halladay has a shredding voice that rips paths as it makes its way through songs, and speakers alike. It can easily pierce the proverbial heart of the matter and drive the sentiments deep down. She’s the kind of singer whose voice is distinctive and instrumental. Her voice can easily set the tone of a song and it’s absolutely integral to producing the Sheer Mag sound.
‘Need to Feel Your Love’ doesn’t have a problem living up to the potential the band established with the initial EP releases. It won’t be surprising to find ‘Need to Feel Your Love’ on the ‘Best Albums’ lists at the end of the year. Philadelphia is a place that’s never really been a ground zero for a marked scene, but it’s a major U.S. city that regularly finds itself associated with history. There’s a lotta great art and music that’s been coming from that part of the country over the last several years. A person, not from that part of the country, would have to assume that Sheer Mag stands out individually in the area’s music community because they certainly do in the far wider national scene. There’s not a band around that sounds like they do. It’s gonna be an interesting thing, watching the evolution of Sheer Mag.