June 12, 2017

sheer mag

Cory Lomberg has set up a GoFundMe for a new turtleneck.

Last month, I sweated through a perfectly good turtleneck in the clammy basement of Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church—and Sheer Mag hadn’t even played yet. Their armory of infectiously scuzzy jams, however, is well worth the wait and the perspiration. Three other bands opened the hometown show, not including a very special guest: then-Philly DA candidate Larry Krasner (he since won the race by a landslide).

Krasner synopsized his own platform—citing hopes to combat mass incarceration and death sentencing—before welcoming Sheer Mag to the stage. Midway through their set, vocalist Tina Halladay summoned Krasner back onto the stage where, with a slightly loosened necktie and the faintest trace of terror, he joined her for a cover of the Clash’s “Clampdown.” The London Calling staple feels tailor-made for current times with Joe Strummer’s reference to, ahem, “evil presidents” and a wall begging to be kicked down.

Sheer Mag’s eagerness to share the stage with their potential DA embodies their refusal to become digestible, despite objectively catchy hooks from lead guitarist Kyle Seely. But on “Need to Feel Your Love,” the title track off their upcoming record, it’s passion that sparks a glow in Sheer Mag’s grit. Sensuality evokes the subverse as Halladay demands romantic reciprocation, the attention that she deserves—that we all deserve, but seem to deny each other far too often for indistinct reasons.

Her lyrics have always veered straight ahead, covering an unapologetic amount of ground. On Sheer Mag’s second 7”, II, she’s a self-proclaimed “bad bitch.” Here, she sees the strength in softness, too. She pines just like the rest of us. Vulnerabilities spill out in a way they only can after being contained for so long. Sheer Mag songs don’t sound formulaic, but they’re all cohesively addicting, marching you to the edge of a burning block, the back of a smoky bar or the front door you swore you wouldn’t be knocking on tonight.

“Need to Feel Your Love” feels particularly spacious, clearing the way for Hart Seely’s nimble bassline and some crunchy delay on Halladay’s vocals. With an interrogative air, she belts, “Our future is so unclear/Do you listen when my heart/Speaks to you?” Addressing that holistic kind of uncertainty head-on is no easy task, for it also begs the question: can you love too much if you don’t have anything left to lose?

Negative, Halladay suggests. Not if you refuse to take no for an answer. “Maybe they say we’re too young/But that’s just fine/’Cause I’ve made up my mind”—love is love, no matter how youthful. Your voice carries a weight, whether you’re a veteran politician or a group of musicians watching your community bear the weight of gentrification. So speak against injustice on your own turf. If someone means something to you, tell them. In this day and age, tenderness is resistance, so the more, the merrier.

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