Stay Sharp - Four Songs (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Stay Sharp

Four Songs (2008)

Monkey Wrench

With the appropriately named Four Songs EP, Philadelphia's Stay Sharp show a ton of promise with ample amounts of passion and energy woven into their sound. It's a sound, by the way, that's been done and redone many times over, but when executed properly, this brand of anthemic East Coast hardcore is reliably enjoyable. The frills are minimal here, and the boys in Stay Sharp keep it brief, hard-hitting and, well, sharp.

Pounding drums kick off "Winning Is Everything" in exciting fashion, leading into a chord progression that's straight outta D.C. circa `81, and Nick Hirschmann's vocals are clean and loud, his inflections full of conviction -- dude sounds an awful lot like Propagandhi's Chris Hannah. The call-and-response gang vocals toward the end of the song are a nice touch, giving it a live feel that would undoubtedly translate well on a stage. And its followup, "Hatfield of Dreams" is a bouncy tune anchored by a simple bass line and a refrain reminiscent of Kid Dynamite's more melodic moments.

At two minutes and 11 seconds, "Sign It" is the magnum opus of Four Songs, and its poppy mid-tempo base is a nice change-up from the fury of the previous two songs. The guitar parts are equally aggressive and melodic, and the gang "whoa-oh"s underneath everything are positively infectious.

"Charge the Mound" closes the EP impressively, continuing some of the melodic undertones found in "Sign It" that give the band and release much-needed depth. The poppy chord progression that kicks off the second part of the song isn't as jarring as it sounds, and the a capella gang vocals that end the song are tailor-made for screaming along: "No, this isn't me / This isn't who I'm supposed to be / I'm sure it's just a phase / I'm gonna fight it until I'm free."

It'll be interesting to see what Stay Sharp can do on a full-length, but with Four Songs these guys are off to a good start.