Sharks - No Gods
Release Date: March 20, 2012
Record Label: Rise/Velocity
The evolving meaning surrounding a debut album has served as a microcosm of the music industry’s ever-changing nature. A mere decade ago, a debut album might actually be the first time you heard a band. Maybe they had one EP out before it. Now, bands with fairly sophisticated catalogs are putting out debut full-length records, even though you might have already seen them headline a 45-minute set. Due to the short attention spans of music listeners and the ratio between relatively high recording costs and relatively low album sales, many an independent band has decided to go the way of multiple EP or the single releases before issuing a real full-length. No Gods is technically Sharks’ debut full-length, following up the Joys of Living collection that featured two new songs at the time, but with at least a dozen songs to their name, expectations are high for the English Clash-punk-rockers.
And to put it shortly, Sharks delivers. In fact, it only takes about 7 seconds for it to become obvious that No Gods is going to deliver. Opener “’Til The Wonders Rise” begins with such an anthemic, such an instantly classic guitar riff that instantly listeners become attracted and enveloped. When the band kicks in, at that 7-second mark or so, the drum hits are so on-point, the production so suitable to the songwriting, that we already know we’re going to ride the album out through the end. And just like first single “Arcane Effigies,” the opener has a chorus that isn’t meant to be played quietly – rather than through headphones, the first two songs were written to fill arenas. These two songs are easily on par with “It All Relates,” an older Sharks song that I’ve always felt was head and shoulders above the rest of their catalog.
To call the album front-loaded would be terrible, though. The middle of No Gods is where the band’s chemistry in its songwriting really shines, in the three songs between “Matthew’s Baby” and “Turn To You.” The track that is sandwiched by those two songs, the horn-laden “Patient Spider,” is nothing short of the album highlight. Ranging from dancey to introspective, the song illustrates a versatility that many punk bands should envy.
No Gods isn’t without its flaws, as Sharks’ sound proves to be slightly repetitive even throughout early listens of the album. Vocalist James Mattock, for how special his voice is and how much it adds to the band’s sound, is the main culprit of this. Although he has improved from Sharks’ last release, it stands that his very distinct sound can grow tiring if you listen enough. It should be noted on top of that criticism, though, that I haven’t been able to stop listening to the album for weeks. The only other complaint with the record is that Sharks definitely went for a more polished sound on No Gods; whereas The Joys of Living had a rough-around-the-edges quality to its production, this album feels a bit more spit-shined. It makes sense, as these songs have bigger hooks, but I can’t get through a listen without wishing some of the songs had the production toned down just a bit.
“Luck” provides another great guitar riff, although not as bombastic as the one that opens the record, and serves as a high-energy transition into the titular closing track. In a pattern that is prevalent across many songs on the album, well-timed group background vocals make up the glue that holds everything together. The closing song, while not being the best on the album, is a masterful piece of musicianship that makes excellent use of a thumping guitar riff and organ near the end. It’s a powerful ending to a record that provides a clear message: Sharks isn’t just an EP band – the Leamington Spa four-piece more than adequately makes the jump to its debut full-length.
While Sharks has developed an early-onset tag of being a straightforward punk band, No Gods shows that they aren’t afraid to toe the line into pop music. The fiery temperament of former releases often gives way to that aforementioned arena-sized pop sensibility, making No Gods sound bigger (and more attractive) than anything this band has written before. Sharks is a group that seems to have an agenda to take major career steps in 2012, and No Gods has the motor to get them where they want to go.
Great review. This album is definitely one of my personal favs of the year so far. So much soul, and I don't care what people say about the solos/riffage... this record rips. Til The Wonders Fall and Arcane Effigies are both amazing after Patient Spider.
Smashing review. Agree with everything you said, especially with how It All Relates is above their catalog in terms of quality, the song is fantastic. Really love the big hooks on this record as well, as a nice catchiness without being poppy.