Sonic Reducer:
 Alibi V.26 No.32 • Aug 10-16, 2017 

Sonic Reducer

Sheer Mag Urges Action

The maelstrom needs to feel your love

Amidst the hatred and enmity running rampant since last November, one hopeful attempt at consolation proposes that Trump will be the catalyst for the end of a broken political system. While I’m not convinced by that argument, I too have found one redeeming quality to this political maelstrom: It’s bringing us some kickass music.

Universally, the best music is passionate. Music itself is passion, an incredible means by which the personal becomes transformed into power. By bridging the gap between individuality and community, truly great music shakes its audience to the core. It evokes emotion. It urges action.

Sheer Mag understands and embraces this power—and the responsibility that comes with it—wholeheartedly on their latest release Need to Feel Your Love. A hard rock band boasting the bravado of ‘70s stadium rock but compelled by the spirit of punk music, Sheer Mag strikes the perfect balance between the personal and the political. From rallying cries of revolution to tender reflections on intimacy, Sheer Mag recognizes the importance of taking charge of your own life and your own world.

The heavy metal guitar riffs of “Meet Me In The Street” kick the album off with an almighty bang, their aggression encouraged by a simple yet thumping drum line. Inspired by the protests in Washington, D.C. during President Trump’s inauguration, the lyrics raucously delivered by lead singer Tina Halladay are a rallying cry for action: “So come on down and get in the mix/We get our kicks with bottles and bricks/When we walk together it feels all right/Meet me in the street.” This call for uprising intensifies alongside a swell of crowd noise that epitomizes the furor of protest, climaxing in a tremendously feral yowl from Halladay. The song ends abruptly with some AC/DC-style guitars punctuating the singer’s sneers.

The whole album, of course, does not carry this same spirit of resistance. Over the course of 12 songs, Sheer Mag explores a wide range of moods and sounds, with ventures into the sonic arenas of funk, disco, country and stadium rock proving the band adept at more than protest anthems. Songs like “Pure Desire” and “Need to Feel Your Love” are celebrations of love and lust. While Halladay’s guttural delivery occasionally struggles to convey the subtlety and finesse for such tender topics, brothers Kyle and Hart Seely—shredding the guitar and bass respectively—are masters of emotion. Their soaring chemistry imbues the album with a catchiness and upbeat energy that plays fascinatingly well against Halladay’s hoarseness

This buoyant bounce prevails even in tracks fueled by the ethos of resistance, reminding us that love, not hate, is the reason we protest. “Expect the Bayonet” is a deceivingly catchy condemnation of voter suppression and systemic racism throughout the United States, with lyrics like “So before the world’s been reduced to soot/Solidarity for those underfoot” poetically underlining a rousing refrain of “And if you don’t give us the ballot/Expect the bayonet!”

From this gritty, sleeves-rolled-up attitude of resistance to their signature lo-fi sound—a product of the entire album being recorded on a Tascam 8-Track—everything about Need to Feel Your Love embodies Sheer Mag’s do-it-yourself heritage. Inspired by an illustrious history of punk rockers fighting against “The Man,” Sheer Mag sounds more empowered than angry, more hopeful than resigned, because they realize one simple truth: unity—be it accomplished through love or anger—is the key to power for the people.