Review Summary: My heart is ruled by Venus
Sheer Mag frontwoman Christina Halladay delivers a sort of smile-inducing heartbreak, and there’s a weird barrier of vulnerability you don’t want to cross. When she insists, “I’m nobody’s baby / I’m nobody’s girl,
” there’s a sense that anyone “in the know" would betray the essence by explaining the backstory to outsiders; and really, it’s besides the point. All of it coalesces into anthems of feminism (particularly opener “Can’t Stop Fighting”) and an accessible communication, where apart from feelings of resentment lies an uncompromising basement-rocking work ethic. Dance has long been a mode of building resilience, both physically and therapeutically, and Sheer Mag deliver some of the most groovable tunes you’re likely to hear out of Philly - or anywhere in the realm of modern power pop, really. Kyle Seely’s lead guitar is still the band’s second voice, and it has greater clarity here than past efforts; for Cheap Trick riff-saluting in 2016 to still carry infectious sentimentality is something to applaud. Sheer Mag’s brand of fun is deeply emotional, like it was fought for tooth and nail, with several toe tags to boot.
That’s not to say their third EP comes with any obligatory baggage. The undertones of spite are anything but shackles; III
is very liberated. Even on “Nobody’s Baby”, where Tina sings of romantic defeat, she emerges victorious. A great deal of Halladay’s charisma is independent of her lyrical content - she could be reciting an odyssey of hard luck and still connote a bellyful of liquid courage and a down-but-not-out degree of personal rebound. This is versatile breakup music, bolstering self-worth with zero patronizing entailed. A song like “Worth the Tears” doesn’t downplay anything; lines like, “well, your stubbornness reveals itself / but you ain’t coming back, Jack, I won’t do it again / even if I want to,
” are pretty standard woman-scorned fare, but Halladay just does it better
than most. What’s more, having catchiness be their claim to fame is oddly commendable in itself. III
, like their entire short discog, is relentlessly catchy, which is a difficult trait to exalt in contrast to conceptual depth or instrumental brilliance; Sheer Mag are pretty barebones, and their newest effort won’t dish out much for wet blankets to reweigh. It’s fitting, as the quintet have always been take-it-or-leave-it with their lack of self-hyping. Their mettle says more than any self-aggrandizement ever could.