The cover art of Sheer Mag’s Need to Feel Your Love depicts a sky full of beautiful, yet dangerous-looking storm clouds. It foreshadows exactly what you should expect from the Philly rock band’s debut LP. Full of electric riffs and solos, explosive vocals from singer Tina Halladay, and confidence that shines through every song, it provides both the larger-than-life sound of classic rock and the irrepressible ethos of punk. If you’re looking for honesty—about relationships, about social justice, et cetera—Need to Feel Your Love is the record for you.
The excitement begins with “Meet Me in the Street,” a song that captures the tumultuous political atmosphere of Trump-era America. It definitely has a ‘60s rock and roll vibe—its chorus evokes standards like “Route 66” (“Get in the mix/We get our kicks”), although its roughness is more reminiscent of “I Fought the Law.” As Halladay describes protests and riots in her somewhat Southern-sounding growl (think Elle King with the expressiveness of Joe Strummer), she makes the band’s mentality clear to listeners: it doesn’t shy away from realism under any circumstances. Speaking of Halladay’s voice, it’s definitely one of the album’s highlights. Plenty of singers can hit the right notes, but only a few have Halladay’s unique gift. Its atypical quality works in her favor—it’s undeniably full of passion, to the extent that it’s impossible to imagine her ever sounding apathetic.
The album’s title track is distinctly disco-influenced from the get-go (groovy bassline included), but it doesn’t sound even slightly out of place on the album because the same intense energy is packed into every measure. Next up is the single “Just Can’t Get Enough,” which is one of several songs that will play in your head on repeat after you finish the album. Although many of the sentiments expressed here are common in romantic music (“You’re the only thing that I need”; “My head’s spinnin’ from your love”), others are less orthodox, emphasizing the song’s sincerity. (For example: “It’s written there in the stars/in grocery aisles/in the shade of a smoky bar.”) Sonically, it has a darker feel despite its affectionate lyrics, which goes to show you that Sheer Mag is not the kind of band that sticks to some predetermined formula.
Throughout the rest of Need to Feel Your Love, Sheer Mag continues to shake things up, both in terms of style and lyrical content. There are some gloriously imposing tracks on the album—like “Suffer Me,” one of the most punk songs here. The intro, which features melodic guitar picking, shows off the band’s raw, experimental side, making it easy to imagine just how good a live Sheer Mag performance would be. Then the powerful, vaguely Western-sounding riff kicks in, and Halladay begins to sing. If you’re not paying attention to the verses, you might think the chorus is about a relationship—“Suffer me/You got to let me be”—but those who listen to every lyric will realize that the song is an account of the Stonewall Riots, complete with poetry like “The city coughed and slowly woke/and there was one less boot/pressing down on one less throat.”
On the other end of the spectrum are tracks like “Until You Find The One.” At only two minutes long, the song is short and sweet, but still fierce. Consisting solely of vocals and electric guitar, it sounds almost like the kind of heartfelt song you might sing by a campfire—that is, if the campfire were located close enough to an amp.
Need to Feel Your Love is unapologetically loud, but not in a way that ever feels too much to handle. It’s bold, empowering, and open—the music of people who know that they can’t run and hide if they want to make a difference in the world. If that’s the kind of music you’re looking for, then, to quote the title of track #6, “Turn it Up.”