Sharks - The Joys of Living 2008-2010
Release Date: April 5, 2011
Record Label: Velvet Scene/Rise Records
We don't usually review compilations on this website, but I felt it more than necessary to make an exception for Sharks' Velvet Scene/Rise Records debut, The Joys of Living: 2008-2010. The 14-track collection features two old EPs from United Kingdom natives and two new songs, totaling all the music they've officially released. Both the Shallow Waters and Show Of Hands EPs showcase what brought Sharks to relevance on both sides of the pond, while the new tracks give us a taste of what we can expect from one of the better new punk groups on any continent.
Sharks' back catalog is solid overall, but certainly is given an identity by its standouts. From the older of the two EPs, Shallow Waters, "Yours to Fear" may be the most impressive track. It has a communal feel with plenty of gang vocals, and the laid-back melody harkens to better times of rock and roll past. A heartfelt, albeit short song, "Yours to Fear" doesn't come in until the later stages of The Joys of Living, but most definitely deserves to be heard.
Comparing Shallow Waters to Show of Hands, the former is probably more worthwhile. The rawness of the production value throughout The Joys of Living is one of the most important qualities; music like this wasn't mean to be listened to spit-shined and spotlessly waxed. It was meant to be listened to loudly, in a too-crowded car with your best friends, driving around aimlessly late on a warm night. "It Threatens" and "The Light At the End of the Tunnel Is Hell" from Shallow Waters exemplify that attitude wholeheartedly, but Sharks' best song is taken off the Show of Hands EP.
"It All Relates" is a Gaslight Anthem-esque track that lends itself much more to Sharks' rock and roll edge than its punk core. Vocalist James Mattock doesn't have a voice that would shine on a purely rock and roll stage, making the group's punk influences essential to its sound. However, Mattack does show well on the chorus of this track, as he sings, "We'd steal, but not to break common trade / But for desire to create and give back what we took in / And watch it bloom from the beginning again / I've never liked my voice anyways / And rock and roll needs tragedy / So if these bones collide well at least we tried / And besides, I could do with some daylight."
If that reads more like a poem than it does the lyrics to one of the catchier choruses you'll be exposed to this year, you're probably not alone in that thought. But that's what listeners will get with Sharks; Mattack does an excellent job of fusing meaningful messages into solid harmonies.
Lastly, the two new songs give off a huge sense of potential for this band's future. "Sweet Harness" and "The Joys of Living" kick off the record, and the former might be the best example of Sharks finding the middle ground between their rock and roll and punk sounds. Two new songs isn't a lot, but hopefully it tides fans over until Sharks' first "real" release on Velvet Scene/Rise Records. The Joys of Living serves the purpose of getting out the band's past material to those who haven't heard it (which, let's face it, is probably most of the Rise Records fanbase) while also giving us a glimpse into what's sure to be a remarkable future for this young band.
Been listening to this band for at least a year now. Nice to see they're getting more recognition now, I was surprised they were unsigned when I first heard them on the Radio. Shallow Waters (the last 5 tracks on this) is a great EP. Not listened to the 2 new tracks yet. Need to get them.