Record Label: Rise Records
Release Date: 29th April 2013
There is a notion that if a shark stops swimming it’ll die, and this ethos has been taken by the Leamington Spa band that bears the same name as the fearsome sea predator. The four piece from Warwickshire only put out their debut record, No Gods, in March 2012 and now a year and a month later we have their sophomore record, Selfhood. The aim with Sharks second output was to “focus on getting the best songs we can, out there as quickly as possible” as quoted by frontman James Matlock when pressed about the creation of his band’s new album. Mission accomplished then as Selfhood is a concise barrage of rootsy punk ‘n’ roll that bounds along at a blistering rate. The record itself is 11 tracks long and clocks in at around thirty minutes which once again proves that the quartet don’t muck about when it comes to turning around an album, and indeed the hasty nature bleeds into their sonic delivery.
We’ve said it before but, Sharks occupy that barren wasteland between The Smiths and The Clash. The boys from the Spa exude a punk rock clatter but also possess a pop spirit which gives their craft urgent hooks that imbed themselves in your lugholes. At times vocalist/guitarist James Matlock’s earthy vocal blurs the lines between Morrissey and Joe Strummer, the frontman happily straddling the poetic delivery of a punkrock warlord. Track ‘22’ illustrates this, the best with a reflective Matlock pondering “What is normal anyway, anyway, anyway/is it normal to be glad at all?” At this point the track is bare boned only for a bassline and a drum lick but then it soon erupts into an arms-aloft punk rock nugget almost like Strummer has rushed Morrissey off the stage to power the song into a more muscular territory.
Sharks reside in Leamington Spa but it seems they are never in their hometown due to the fact they are always touring with a broad spectrum of punk and rock bands, from Pure Love, The Gaslight Anthem and Four Year Strong to name a few. It’s this firebrand punk spirit that melds into Selfhood, albeit for two songs, the record sounds like four bros, sauntering into a practice room, plugging and blasting out a record, no messin’ at all. ‘Bloody Wings’ surges along like Brian Fallons gang with an upfront drum stomp provided by Sam Lister, while vigorous guitar stabs riffed out by Matlock and Andrew Bayliss fuel an incendiary delivery, not to mention Carl Murrihy’s bass rumbles that give ‘Bloody Wings’ a healthy bounce. ‘Gold’ is another succinct sucker punch of a track with the band careering full tilt into sweaty punk rock-dom. ‘Sundays Hand’ may chime in like a camp fire song but any kumbaya vibes are premature once the foursome snarl back to life with serrated riffs and thunderous drumming.
What’s telling with Selfhood is that although it’s labeled as punk, it is also anthemic without being disposable, plus the LP can be considered intimate and personal without losing any of the albums bite. Closing number ‘Wild One’ spotlights Sharks at their rawest, with the song commencing only to the sound of a lonesome riff and Matlock’s tender croon. “I’ve waded through an ocean of sand for a grain of doubt/and I’m certain my body’s such an anchor/when it’s wasted not being beside ya” to the sound of a shadowy surf guitar motif floating like flotsam and jetsam on a millpond before the choppy waves of honest to goodness rock ‘n’ roll brings the song to an explosive climax to then drift effortlessly to a close.
Let’s hope this group of Sharks never stops swimming because with music this honest and pure ceasing to move is not an option. At this rate we’ll be praising album number three in May 2014.