Written by Caleb Oldham
Last September, Sheer Mag released their debut EP 7” and introduced themselves as a sweaty, unapologetic rock band with a pop twist. If rock’n’roll is an inanimate corpse, “revivalist” is the best term to describe the Philadelphia natives’ sound on the EP. But instead of coaxing the genre back to life, they strapped electrodes to its cold flesh and shocked it with hot sparks of 70’s hard rock cliches to get the blood flowing. Their debut might not have been original, but it was certainly exciting. In four brief tracks, it displayed a masterful wielding of rock’s energy and pop’s sensibilities, each song packing a punch, each song making an argument for a genre claimed dead.
Sheer Mag’s second EP II, released April 18, is a reminder that rock’n’roll — at least in its current state — isn’t about pushing boundaries. Before even releasing a full length, Sheer Mag have codified their own sound. A tambourine on the snare drum and an iteration of the opening riff to “I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night” by Kiss — this is what a Sheer Mag song sounds like. The fact that major music criticism websites have lauded them as saviors while simultaneously noting their “open worship” of the past or that they “reference 1970s classic rock every time they holler and shred,” demonstrates the degree to which critics are no longer valuing innovation in rock over respect for form. From the constant 4/4 time to the Jackson 5-esque guitar on the chorus of “Fan the Flames,” nothing on this record feels new.
In Sheer Mag’s defense, artistic value doesn’t reside solely in innovation. II may not have all of the raw “first release glow” of 7”, but it succeeds in lending substantial energy to what is essentially a collection of well-crafted classic rock songs. Singer Christina Halladay has a knack for belting out powerful verses about the struggles of living in a city, capturing the distorted anger of punk while still preserving the sweet serenade of a pop song.
Perhaps the decision to release another EP before delving into a full length is Sheer Mag’s way of letting us know that they’re not done exploring the sounds of the past. Hopefully, when they choose to take on an LP they’ll cover ground a little less charted.
Listen to more from Sheer Mag on their Bandcamp.