Picking up the torch of classic rock

By Sergio Ariza

After publishing three EPs, Need To Feel Your Love is the debut album of Sheer Mag, a band from Philadelphia that could be described as one of the great hopes of American rock. Their explosive mix of Thin Lizzy-like riffs, powerful voice, and risky  lyrics in these days of Trump, returns rock to its abrasive, subversive edge.  

The record starts off with a declaration of intentions, Meet Me in the Street. Built on guitar licks straight out of the AC/DC playbook, they speak with a vengeance  of violence that the inauguration of Trump brought about. A punk attitude over a hard rock sound that drinks directly, without reservation, from the 70s. Just look how the bridge of the song follows some chords worthy of Angus and Malcolm Young with a scream that would make Roger Daltrey proud. Although clearly, the biggest influence to keep talking about is that of Thin Lizzy (just look at their logo). Kyle Seely is still an encyclopedia of riffs and plays Jailbreak by heart as the flawless Just Can’t Get Enough and Can’t Play it Cool show.

In the perfect conjunction between Seely’s riffs, and the raw, powerful, and tender at the same time voice of Tina Halladay lies  the thrust of this group who don’t hide their love for the golden age of hard rock, despite relying on many more influences, from the worthy of ‘power pop’ chorus , to the ferocity of punk or that taste for “lo-fi” that link them to ‘indie’. Not to mention the other less obvious ones like his fondness for disco and funk music that show how Seely knows by heart all Nile Rodgers’ tricks, as you can see in the title song and Pure Desire, another fine example of the strength and tenderness in Halladay’s vocal chords.

In this sort of group of heirs of Phil Lynott and his band, one could not help to mention the fact that the guitars are cared for to perfection, all the main parts are duplicated with the main star: Seely’s Telecaster Fender Deluxe Nashville. In spite of being able to play a solo like Mötley Crüe, as he shows in Turn It Up, Seely always puts song structure before technique . As for Matt Palmer, rhythm guitarist, (and author of a big chunk of those incendiary lyrics) he plays a Peavey T-60 from 1980.

At times when the music press ask for the expiry date on rock, or about its possible demise, bands and records like this one are needed for a big NO response.  Perhaps there isn’t a rock anthem here that will go down in history, but neither is there a single sub-par song, and that in itself is an achievement. In these troubled times we live in, it’s good to see a young band pick up the torch of classic rock, replacing old clichés about girls and liquor for rage and social outcry. It’s not that the boys in Sheer Mag don’t like the bottle, it’s just that theirs contains gasoline instead of whiskey, and are willing to light it up at any moment.