In an ugly past best forgotten, record labels and radio stations actually had some say in how bands developed, and that say usually had a lot to do with keeping bands easily categorized by genre. Experimentation made in-store racking and inclusion on primetime DJs’ playlists more difficult, so it was either discouraged or outright banned. Now that those genre lines have blurred to the point that they’re insignificant, it’s not a shock that a band would co-opt aspects of ’70s melodic radio rock. Many have. What’s surprising is how well that style blends with the no-wave lo-fi style that was originally intended to kill it.
Sheer Mag (short for Sheer Magnitude, which reflects their sound pretty well) recall Cheap Trick fronted by VKTMS’ Nyna Crawford. Well, OK, maybe that’s going too far: Cheap Trick in their prime were amazing and Nyna Crawford never had the range Sheer Mag singer Tina Halladay shows in song after song. If you like the tight guitar lines of shorthair rock bands like The Knack or Milk ‘N’ Cookies, there’s a lot to like on Sheer Mag’s latest 7″ III (2016). “Worth The Tears,” “Can’t Stop Fighting,” and especially “Nobody’s Baby” all have a crunch and grit that says punk. But that lo-fi production can’t mask the hooks or the radio-ready lyrics. Like Nashville’s Daddy Issues does with grunge, Sheer Mag can recall the forms and features of ’70s pop rock without falling victim to its excesses or limitations.
A handful of 7” records is an admittedly small sample size to draw any conclusions about who they are or where they’re headed. Is the distortion in the vocals a choice or a budgetary limitation? Without the indie production touches, you might confuse Sheer Mag with a pop band, albeit an outlier, like pre-Tragic Kingdom No Doubt. They’ve got chops and hooks and attitude to spare, and the old rules don’t seem to apply to them. »
– Eric Evans