Review Summary: You've got to stand up and break the chains‘Today’s teenage frustration is caused, not by fuddy-duddy parents, not by easily shocked adults, but by an intractable economic situation, by a society in which everyone talks a lot about the plight of the youth but no one does anything. This isn’t an ideology, it is a mood.’
So said Village Voice writer Simon Frith, in his 1977 essay ‘Beyond the Dole Queue: The Politic of Punk’. Forty years later, and we can only dream of living in the economic conditions of the 70s. Philadelphia five-piece Sheer Mag revel in the plight of the worker, and for the past three years have been ploughing the mines of 70s underdog rock & roll, back when those words meant something, and finding only the best white-hot ***ing brilliant riff punk.
For those of us who already believe in the Sheer Mag philosophy, it is commonly understood that they are perhaps the greatest rock band working today. So with this reissue of their first three four-track EPS, to prepare for their first debut full-length this year, it’s an excuse to be thankful. To be thankful that Sheer Mag understand that, while their rock & roll won’t single-handedly upturn capitalist degradation, the personal liberation felt through those burning licks is worth something. To be thankful for Christina Halladay’s soulful yelp, never one seeming vulnerable despite the oft open-wound lyrics she soars her way round. To be thankful for songs such as ‘Fan The Flames’, which possesses perhaps the goddamn best guitar riff of the past five years, turning a song about gentrification and yuppies into a grin-inducing moshpit frenzy. To be thankful for songs such as ‘Can’t Stop Fighting’, a song that charges forward with its serrated riff, about the Mexican city of Ciadud Juarez, where an epidemic of women’s murders remain unpunished. To just be damn thankful that a band recognises how vital Thin Lizzy
Each of Sheer Mag’s twelve three-minute songs drive forward with such spirit, such determination to make you feel ***ing alive. We’re in for a long fight against the conditions that are putting us all down into the ground, so let’s dance like drunken bastards while we bloody have to.
As Neil Eriken said in his 1980 essay ‘Popular Culture and Revolutionary Theory’:
‘As a part of the daily life of the masses, the struggle for working class hegemony within popular culture can be as exciting and rewarding as it is difficult and dangerous.’