Sunday, 9 August 2015

Sheer Mag - II 7"

The second 7" of this Philadelphia punk band. Sheer Mag lay a patina of dirt over classic rock riffs, like Thin Lizzy as a region rock band. Free bent outta shape, Bent Outta Shape dragged through with hooks. Echoes of bits of powerpop like The Frenchmen's No Surprise and its melancholic pomp, something like Hanson Brothers's Right Back Where We Started From cover but jumping back to Maxine Nightingale's original vocals.

It opens with Fan the Flames's shimmy swagger, rueful bad neighbourhood blues, singing of old houses and decrepit fixings, reverberating with that Double Duce charm, the chaos of a home that is shabby and barely held-together both inside ("Getting hard to stay in tune/The boys are getting me down/I'll be staying in my room") and out ("In the dark and the bitter cold/They're freezing us out/It's as good as gold"), but still shakes and lives with the feeling of a home in spite of the spectre of gentrification lurking in the background.


Travelin' On's jangle and sway cataloging the whispering lure of the roads, the rough shackles of wanderlust, living drifter mythic, burnt bridges and patched soles and leaving town as you watch yourself leave town, moving like a snowball down a hill, silently gathering yourself for an impact. "When all the smoke was clearing out/Oh yeah I was on my own/I ain't coming home to you/I was born to roam the streets yeah."

Button Up a fuck-you self-affirmation, that precarious place where telling others you're not to be fucked with and at the same time convincing yourself of that fact, of telling yourself you can deal with some shit, of screaming at the world that you're through with their shit. "I'm taking time whatever I do/I'm working hard whatever I do/With You"

Whose Side Are You On?, echoing the old union tune, but grounding it less in accusatory polemic than in the bonds of friendship and understanding stretched in the face of too much real shit, as slipperily unsteady as it it forceful and joyous. "The factory wheels'll keep spinnin along/It ain't cut and dried/And it never will/But the fightin' baby that's half of the thrill"

The diminutives and asides that pepper the lyrics adding to the sharp familiarity they carry, 2nd and 1st person, conversationally poetic, a distillation of times when you somehow managed to say the right thing. They assume you're conversant with certain knowledges, certain struggles. And these are often worn topics, the road, home, friendship, the fight, your fight, but they're worn like scarred fists, discoloured deformed couches, rusty cars with silly nicknames. They're worn with real living process and the battering winds of experience.

That's part of what gets this songs stuck so deep into you, like the way the Hold Steady could root around in a riffed up charger and pull out of it a smaller closer story, but with greater personal kick here, a more tender gutpunch, a brighter spark. Mixing those punk-fractured intimacies and dilemmas with a wayward scrappy version the kind of music that reminds you of your dad getting really drunk and ranting about how he wants this song, this song playing right now, blasted at his funeral good and loud.

I've had this EP on my phone for a couple months now and back in May after a show it had me half-cut and footloosin' it up around an empty coach station at 2am, work seven hours and 220 miles of megabus away, but I was skipping around free in myself in a way I rarely feel until I got too hype and attempted to leap gracefully onto a bench coming very close to a dramatic faceplant. These songs swallow you up in their world, they tell you to fuck off and hold you tight with the roughness of a true friend, they get you movin, whether it's out into the world or just onto to the dancefloor. There are always steps that you need to take, there are some steps that you need to be reminded to take. By a friend or by a song.

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