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SHEER MAG • s/t Compilation (I, II & III) • LP

SHEER MAG • s/t Compilation (I, II & III) • LP

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Static Shock Records

Sheer Mag’s signature tune is “Fan the Flames,” an anarchic jamboree with mandatory party hats. Guitar licks flirt, rhythms tease, and, amidst the stirrings of Tina Halladay’s furious yowl, champagne flutes tremble on their shelves. Only then does the song show its hand: a roaring screed on housing inequality and unjust rent inflation, with a cast of gentrifying yuppies, heartless investors, and a landlord negligent of human rights and fire-hazards. It concludes in a furnace of horror: “When our neighbors burned/The realtors shook hands/With their backs turned.” As Halladay fumes, acrobatic riffs twirl optimistically. A final chorus rallies troops: “You’ve got to stand up and break the chains/Make a plan and demand what the damage pays.”

On Compilation LP, a remastered suite of their three EPs to date, the Philly gang apply their fury to a thematic swath: by turns personal and political, romantic and righteous. Like any throwback band setting the world to rights with whiskey on its breath, the band requires a magnetic personality for anchorage, of which it has five. Halladay, while rooted in punk, is a born rock star with a soul singer’s defiance: In a soaring note, her wail can crest, tremble suggestively, and suddenly snap, as if to say, “Boy, you couldn’t handle the rest.” Less merciful is lead guitarist Kyle Seely, a prolific and preternatural hook-writer: “Point Breeze” opens with a wild, red-herring riff that quickly flips inside-out; you want to rewind it, like a magic trick, and locate the sleight of hand. Seely composes the songs with his key-jumping bassist and brother, Hart; drummer Ian Dykstra lays hot coals under their feet, his jittery beats primed for a structural collapse. Matt Palmer, the agile rhythm guitarist, often doubles as the band’s firebrand lyricist.

As befits a band that rallies its disenchanted listeners to organize, the result is an all-pistons-firing unit: The 40-minute record hurtles ahead, a swarm of righteous energy; there are abundant pre-choruses, mid-song transitions plugged with errant licks, a hook for every available nook. The awesome catchiness of opener “What You Want,” from their 2015 debut EP, hinges on a cheeky three-note bassline that bobbles innocently, as if lost between verses. Halladay sings of romantic submission—“I can be anything that you want me to be/Lock me up, yeah, you got the key”—but you’d need a Geiger Counter to detect vulnerability in her whiplash vocals. Even when the lyrics turn inward, Halladay’s throaty exhortations advance a subtext of personal liberation.

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