SHARKS - Show of Hands (Cover Artwork)


Show of Hands (2010)

Best Before

With their previous EP, Shallow Waters, SHARKS managed to grab the attention of everyone from Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem to Mick Jones of the Clash. Snapped up in recent months by London-based indie label Best Before Records, the band have now had the chance to put out their first "official" release: the five-track Show of Hands.

After the first few listens, the songs are not as striking as those featured on Shallow Waters. They lack the same sense of urgency and the hooks are more nuanced. But although Show of Hands might not stand out as instantly as its predecessor, that is not to say it lacks the same degree of quality. There is a bigger, louder feel to it--a greater depth and maturity to the songs.

There has been no great divergence in style or songwriting, and all the same influences are there: the sound and aesthetic of bands like the Replacements and the Clash are obvious reference points, while Mattock's standout lyricism is heavily reminiscent of a young Blake Schwarzenbach. "We'd steal, but not to break common trade, but for desire to create," he sings on "It All Relates," "To give back what we took in and watch it bloom from the beginning again."

The highlights are "Trains" and "It All Relates," songs pumped full of restless youth and raw energy. But on "Three Houses" and "More Blue," it feels like the band is playing it safe; verse-chorus song structures can only be taken so far. As on Shallow Waters, they are at their best when they tinker with arrangements and experiment with sounds. Andrew Bayliss' brilliant atmospheric guitar work on "Glove in Hand," paired with Spencer Pollard's spoken-word part, illustrates how SHARKS excel when they push their own boundaries.

Show of Hands is not a disappointment, but neither does it shatter expectations. The real test for the band is now whether they can push their songwriting forward, under immense pressure, to produce a debut album that keeps up the colossal momentum set in motion by Shallow Waters. If they are willing to take the leap, rest assured their best is yet to come.