2017Sheer Mag w/ Tony Molina
OctoberDoors 8:30, Show 9:30 - $10adv / $12
Beyond the noxious haze of our national nightmare - as structures of social justice and global progress topple in our midst - there lies a faint but undeniable glow in the distance.
What is it?
Like so many before us we are drawn to the beacon. But only by the bootstraps of our indignation do we go so boldly into the dark to find it.
And so Sheer Mag has let the sparks fly since their outset, with an axe to grind against all that clouds the way. A caustic war cry, seething in solidarity with all those that suffer the brunt of ignorance and injustice in an imbalanced system.
Both brazen and discrete, loud yet precise, familiar but never quite like this - SHEER MAG crept up from Philadelphia cloaked in bold insignia to channel our social and political moment with grit and groove. Cautious but full of purpose.
What is it?
By making a music both painfully urgent and spiritually timeworn, SHEER MAG speak to a modern pain: to a people that too feel their flame on the verge of being extinguished, yet choose to burn a bit brighter in spite of that threat.
With their debut LP, the cloak has been lifted. It is time to reclaim something that has been taken from us. Here the band rolls up their sleeves, takes to the streets, and demands recompense for a tradition of inequity that’s poisoned our world. However, it is in our ability to love - our primal human right to give and receive love - that the damage of such toxicity is newly explored.
Love is a choice we make. We ought not obscure, neglect, or deny that choice. Through the tumult and the pain, the camaraderie and the cause, the band continues to burn a path into that great beyond.
But where are we headed?
On NEED TO FEEL YOUR LOVE, they makes their first full-length declaration of light seen just beyond our darkness. Spoken plainly, without shame:
It is love.
This - is SHEER MAG.
You could fit the contents of Tony's previous releases on Slumberland and Matador onto one side of a 90-minute cassette and still have room left over for the eight offerings on "Confront the Truth," but would you want it any other way? When Tony sings about "trying to move on but I just don't know how," no extension of the time it takes for him to bring that feeling across is going to solve the problem at hand. You're immediately thrust into the orbit of these songs; you know how he feels, and now you can relate. Transference is complete. You've got plenty of time left over to dwell upon them.
The eight offerings on "Confront the Truth" notch a significant advancement in his style and approach. Almost completely absent from these new songs are the overloaded guitar crunch of "Dissed and Dismissed," or his earlier work with Ovens; it's replaced by gentle acoustic balladry, tasteful Mellotron and piano backing, the kind of musicianship that often takes a lifetime to master. The sadness of this music has precedents in pop's past; Tony's revelatory turn into specific traditions of pop music speak directly to the reasons why we love music in general, and what keeps our finest players driven to create. The repertoire from which he draws may be narrow, but in these songs, you hear exactly what Tony found in those influences that shaped his experience; years upon years of focus and isolation in developing his guitar skills to speak to these truths. The main difference here is that where Tony's previous works felt casual and easy to digest, here we feel the full weight of his emotional needs pressed against the gentlest and most careful music of his career.
I'll paraphrase myself here, from something I wrote about Tony's old band, Ovens, which applies here as well: the music is at once what I believe to be the quintessential encapsulation of the turmoil of West Coast youth. Hang out by the ocean on a beautiful day, land that trick you’ve been practicing on your skateboard for months, but you’re still bummed; the struggle to achieve balance without means in a place where you’re told you’re lucky to be informs every second of these songs. That the pain turns inwards -- lamentations on relationships that are over for good -- proves to be as much a condition of the environment as it is the mindset with which it aligns. The record's coda, a highlight reel of Thin Lizzy's "Banshee," indicates that the Tony you knew is still in there, but the game has changed, and the rules are entirely his own. Tony Molina is in complete control of his own destiny, and we should all care about where he's going.
Doug Mosurock, a fan first and a friend forever