Published Aug 20, 2019Sheer Mag made feel good music. Their empowering narratives and buoyant refrains have, in many ways, raised the creative standard amongst adjacent punk acts, both in and beyond their circle. And like their back catalogue, A Distant Call is packed with songs that are just as well-suited for singing along in the shower as they are for day drives with the top down. All of this, encapsulated in the sounds of decades past.
However, don't let the sprightliness fool you. Tina Halladay's personal hurdles are laid out like an open book, asking (albeit politely) to be listened to, rather than simply heard.
On "Cold Sword," for example, Halladay recollects her relationship with her estranged father. That's perhaps why this song and a few others have an added bounce of optimism in their instrumentals — to ensure that the hard truths are easier to swallow, to let us know everything will be fine.
A Distant Call is also the PA quartet's strongest effort into sonic expansion. While the nuances are subtly tucked into each mix, their finely tuned collaborative ear has masterfully pulled from all the tropes of classic rock. There are hints of Fleetwood Mac on "Silver Line," and at least half-a-dozen gleaming guitar licks that would feel right at home in a Cheap Trick deep cut. Though it's that same wealth of knowledge to thank for such spectacles, that's also to blame for the missteps.
The once nitty-gritty production that better helped listeners live in Sheer Mag's retro world has been tidied up. Having polished up so much that the line between self-awareness and cliché is stretched thin, it's hard to tell whether a concept has been burrowed or held hostage all together. In many ways, the charm is gone.
Thankfully, a song like "Hardly to Blame," finds ways to make the best of less-than-ideal situations. This infectious breakup track is one of the group's catchiest to date. Each member shines, riffs abound, and Halladay's voice (a hell of a voice) confidently leads the charge. When Sheer Mag find themselves in this lane, it's pretty damn hard to deny their talent. (Wilsuns RC)