In “Change the World Without Taking Power,” author John Holloway explores the concept of political revolution by starting with “the scream:” the deep, disturbing and unexplainable feeling that something is deeply wrong with the world around us and that something must be done. This feeling isn’t necessarily tied to any political program: it’s the raw passion from which revolution springs.
Philadelphia punk band Sheer Mag screams. Vocalist Christina Halladay has one of the most passionate presences of any rock singer today, her yowl smoldering and instantly inspiring attention. The band backs her up with riffy, groovy songs that take all the catchiness of a Thin Lizzy tune and infuse it with lo-fi grit. It’s fitting that guitarist Kyle Seely told Rolling Stone that he recorded one of the band’s latest singles, “Fan the Flames,” through a boombox instead of a guitar amp: their sonic ancestors are exactly the type of classic rock radio bands you’d pump through a boombox when you wanted to feel like your dad on a hot summer day.
The scream, though, is more than just passion: the political content of Sheer Mag’s music is one of its most compelling qualities. Its latest single, “Can’t Stop Fighting,” rails against the routine violence visited upon working-class women in Juarez, tying it back to the global plague of violence against women that enables, reinforces and normalizes these kinds of occurrences. “Night Isn’t Bright” compels the masses to “band together” against the “politics of simplification” or else be torn apart.
Even Sheer Mag’s existence has political implications. Its brand of guitar rock, has traditionally been advanced by bands dripping with sleaze and machismo. For a deeply political band led by a woman who screams that she’ll “be in the vanguard” to strike the first blow against the myriad profiteers of global injustice to take this genre and turn it on its head is itself a subversive act.
Sheer Mag plays April 3 in Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk St.) along with Laffing Gas, Radiation Risks and Uniform. Tickets are $10 advance, $12 day of show. For info, visit buffalosmohawkplace.com.
– Daniel Bauer