Archive for the ‘Sheer Mag’ Category


At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

This has got to be the first time I knew of a band before Lars Gottrich introduced me to them. (although it sounds like he’s known them for quite a while).  I learned of Philadelphia’s Dark Thoughts when I saw them open for Sheer Mag.  They were fantastic.

Gottrich mentions The Ramones as a touchstone, and that’s certainly there.  But I also hear some good old British punk in the vocals (which are not quite as melodic as Joey Ramone’s).

Jim Shomo loves The Ramones, from his bratty punk affectation to the bubblegum punk hooks. But the Philly band also knows that there’s still so much to learn from punk’s tradition, heard in the ridiculously catchy two-minute-or-less songs and a leather-worn physicality of At Work. You feel every power chord and drum kick in your bones.

This two-minute song is one of the longer tracks on the disc.  And its a bit of a departure from the standard two chords punk song because there’s a distorted “ooh oooh ooohs” that sound a bit like a synth (but are just distorted) and which return later in the song).

There’s no solos, no flash, just fast pop-punk.  The songs aren’t happy but nor are they angry, they’re more disaffected.  And the disaffected often make great music.  But as he says in the episode, seeing them live is the real key—they are dynamite.

Check out their bandcamp site.

[READ: December 3, 2018] ”Good Mother”

This is an excerpt from a novel called Now, Now, Louison.  It was translated by Cole Swensen.  In this novel, he writes in the voice of artists Louise Bourgeois who was famous for her enormous sculptures of spiders.

It begins with the idea that sculptures are made out of frustrating–trying to weave connections.

Then there is the warehouse in Brooklyn, gotten for a song where the sculptures grew larger: “Spiders, spiders, you never tired of remaking them bigger and bigger.  More immoderately maternal.”  So why not tell your own story with your sculptures–not the one they’ve told you–you have to be precise or say nothing at all. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 26, 2017] Sheer Mag

A few months ago I had tickets to see Sheer Mag at the Unitarian Church.  I bought the tickets to see the band Marge who was opening–I had only seen one song of theirs in an earlier show and wanted to see more. Well, I wound up not going to that show.  Since then I’ve come to appreciate Sheer Mag a lot more.

So when I saw they were having a record release party at Union Transfer, I thought it was time to fix my missed opportunity.

My college aged self would have loved that I had gone to 3 album release parties in one season.  And my current self thinks it’s pretty cool, too.  But honestly there’s not much going on at these “parties.”  For this one, Sheer Mag didn’t even have CDs of the new record (vinyl only).  But I did get a cool poster, so that’s okay.

So while the “party” part of the night was a bit of a let down, the show certainly wasn’t.

Sheer Mag are unsigned (which I didn’t realize) but have huge buzz around them. They self released their new album (technically a debut since their previous release combined their three EPs).  They play a terrific swagger-filled hard rock (comparisons to many riff rock bands of the 70s abound).  And they are fronted by bad-ass singer Tina Halladay whose gritty voice sounds quite a bit like some of high-pitched male singers of the era. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 26, 2017] Purling Hiss

I know Purling Hiss from NPR’s All Songs Considered.  Last year they played the band’s “3000 AD” which I instantly fell in love with.  There was a cool shoegaze feel to it with a bunch of noisy elements that I really enjoyed.

I knew that the bulk of the band’s catalog was basically Mike Polizze making music for himself.  It was pretty noisy and abstract with lots of jam moments.  They are now a band–I’m not sure who the other two guys in the band were (based on the latest album, I’m assuming Ben Hart on drums and Dan Provenzano on bass)–and they have gotten more musical since then.  But thy are still noisy.  So I expected a lot of squalling feedback and pummeling sounds.

I was quite pleased with how melodic the band’s songs were (no idea what songs they played, but I assume most of it came from their newest album).  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 26, 2017] Haram

Haram (which mean “forbidden”) was the most buzzed about band at this show (even more so than Sheer Mag, if Sheer Mag is to believed).  Dark Thoughts and Sheer Mag said they were the most important band in punk right now. I have to assume it’s because they sing in Arabic, but their music is pretty great too.

I had listened to their bandcamp page.  They have a demo and a new EP out (a total of about 18 minutes of recorded music), so I knew what I was in for.  But I wasn’t expecting the amount of intensity that the singer brought to the show (although subsequent pictures of other shows tells me I should have).

I don’t know what songs they played, exactly, although I assume all of them.  The only song I can place is “Blood.”

Nader sings entirely in Arabic (including a number of really guttural vocalizations which could have been words or not).  And in between songs he spoke to us in Arabic.  Not an English word to be heard throughout their set.

It was pretty wild. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 26, 2017] Dark Thoughts

Dark Thoughts are a Philly band who play really melodic and fast punk.  They remind me (and a lot of other people) of the Ramones, but there’s a kind of British punk sound in the vocals and an overall poppiness that really belies their name (although their song titles are pretty nihilistic).

Dark Thoughts is Amy on bass, Daniel on Drums and Jim on guitar and vocals.  Their album (which you can hear on bandcamp) has 12 songs in 20 minutes (and a EP with about 6 more minutes of different takes of 4 of those songs).   They played for about 20 minutes and the whole crowd (especially me) was really into it.  I’m fairly certain if there had been more people there would have been a lot of slam dancing.  A few people tried to get something started but here just weren’t enough bodies.

Jim was a charming front man, making some jokes (while those two drink cider I’m going to stand here and do nothing) but also being sincere in his encouragement that we get involved in the J20 protest organization. (more…)

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