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The Philadelphia five-piece have seen one practice space raided by a Swat team and another taken over by ‘crackheads’ – all good material for music that combines retro riffs and disco rhythms with a 21st-century social conscience
Standing in the front rows of Sheer Mag’s show at the Islington Assembly Hall in north London, it’s easy to imagine that this mid-July gig is taking place in a different decade. Kids in dungarees jive to the Philadelphia band, while middle-aged record collectors nod at the sides. On stage, guitarist Kyle Seely’s mouth widens for every showy 70s riff he plays, and the band’s name adorns a stained, worn-out banner above Ian Dykstra’s drum riser. This could be the scene from an old rockumentary were it not for the pro-Jeremy Corbyn chants ringing out between songs.
But for all their retro nods, Sheer Mag’s music has a modern social conscience. It’s “woke”. They speak for today’s outsiders: poor people marginalised by high rents and gentrification; women told to accept lower wages and rights; US citizens whose vote is undermined because of gerrymandering. These subjects, centre stage on their debut album, Need to Feel Your Love, are approached with the same pelvis-thrusting force of, say, Thin Lizzy. But this traditional rock, with its sexually confident attitude, is being delivered by a woman, Tina Halladay. The band might source from the past, but they’re far from backwards-thinking.