March 21, 2012

Album Review: SHARKS' "No Gods"

Before there was ever such thing as a BUZZSound here on AS, there was this -- the feature piece that preceded the up-and-comer spotlights which included SHARKS, a then-unsigned crew of Brit-punks who nabbed the 25th spot on 2010's top albums with their remarkable Show of Hands EP. It's hard to believe it's been two whole years of budding hype surrounding the latest UK punk export without as much of a full-length debut to back up the anticipation, but the day of judgement has finally arrived for SHARKS on No Gods. Now part of the Rise Records roster (alongside everyone from Hot Water Music, The Bouncing Souls and Make Do and Mend,) SHARKS' first proper LP lengthily shows off their teeth as a band that's as brash as they are self-aware of their influences.

What has made SHARKS so endearing within punk circles (defined best by the diversity of band's they've toured with over the years including The Gaslight Anthem, Gallows and Title Fight) probably has something to do with the timeless influences they unabashedly cop. Despite fronting a nihilistic slant here on No Gods, they respectfully rip out and reassemble the pages of scene vets' such as The Clash and their commercial appeal, The Replacement's unpretentious intellectualism and a slice of Springsteen's Americana. You can tell they're still figuring out how to make it their own here without jilting the formula too much, but their hungry potential still flares up along the way.

Impassioned anthemic tracks such as "'Til the Wonders Rise," lead single "Arcane Effigies" and "What Entails" are climactic portrayals of SHARKS' peaking chorus lines that emphasize James Mattock's maturing vox. Nostalgically wistful lyrical look-backs ("Able Moving Hearts," "Patient Spider," "Luck") on the other hand showcase a beyond-his-years songwriting perspective from the 21-year-old frontman. While No Gods' rockier moments confront some dovetailing tempos at times, SHARKS deflect each lull with refreshingly soft-skinned cruisers to break them apart ("On a Clear Day You Can See Yourself," "Dawn Soft Light.") Solid as it may be, anyone anticipating SHARKS to reinvent punk rock on No Gods might want to consider lowering their expectations to a more reasonable level. As far as debut LPs go however, the Leamington Spa quartet preach to the genre's most enlightened and ageless qualities in earnest.

SHARKS' No Gods is available now on Rise Records.

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