Sometimes, good rock’n’roll records are all about feel, and Philadelphia five-piece Sheer Mag‘s debut is a case in point. The first hint comes from its cover, an aeroplane heading through blackened clouds towards a faraway sun, with the band’s crudely drawn logo in the top left corner. It has the instant impact of a classic rock sleeve, the kind you’d see a balding guy who still maintains a straggly mullet sporting on a faded t-shirt.
The rest of ‘Need To Feel Your Love’, the band’s full-length follow-up to the three EPs (handily titled ‘I’, ‘II’ and ‘III’) released since 2014, has much the same impact. It thwacks you right in the gut from the get go. Kyle Seely’s buzzing riff on opener ‘Meet Me In The Street’ tees up a bruising story of the violence that unfolded in Washington DC during Donald Trump’s inauguration. You’ll think of AC/DC as the guitars crunch, but Tina Halladay’s soulful screams of “Justice for all” and grunts of “Huuuh!” offer an immediate reminder that Sheer Mag are a big-hearted band.
And while there are numerous hits of politics and protest – pummelling highlight ‘Expect The Bayonet’; ‘Suffer Me’’s reference to the Stonewall Riots; ‘(Say Goodbye To) Sophie Scholl’, a tribute to the titular German anti-Nazi activist – this record unveils Sheer Mag’s tender side. While doing so, it unmasks some new influences, namely Nile Rodgers and Abba, particularly evident on the title-track (which will make you swoon, by the way). For further evidence, see the jangly ‘Milk And Honey’, ‘Pure Desire’’s lusty swing and the giddy ‘Can’t Play It Cool’. All three feature on side B, which, after the awesome heavy metal pogo of ‘Turn It Up’ (warning: bonkers guitar solo) that closes the breakneck first half, unwinds towards a decidedly chilled conclusion.
These 12 songs make sense in uninterrupted sequence, hung together on Seely’s lightning-fingered lead guitar, his brother Hart’s bass and Halladay’s vocal, which switches from sweet to savage in an instant. Energy, desire and that indefinable cool that any great rock band must have burst from every angle. This album feels like a celebration, and Sheer Mag sure deserve one.