Sharp and sure, cunning and clever, Montreal’s Sheer Agony make sugary pop power anthems replete with a fantastic amount of hooks and an unparalleled sense of song craft. There is a certain degree of hero worship at play here (Soft Boys, Todd Rundgren), but the fervent overflow of originality pouring out of this three-piece means that words like ‘pastiche’ and ‘homage’ are useless in deciphering the idiosyncrasies of their debut 7” . After all, Rundgren was sexy but kind of stupid, solo Hitchcock was fun but a little foolish and The Soft Boys… well, that first record is pretty fucking perfect.
Rather than wrapping their songs in reverb or soaking them some other lo-fi fuzz, Sheer Agony exude a great confidence in using clean tones and crafty, time-honoured recording tricks. Along with their well-timed hands and tuned-in ears, the crisp sonic palette allows for singer Jackson Macintosh’s songwriting to shine with all due shininess.
On paper, his lyrics leave something to be desired. There are no aphorisms, no great knowledge or deep wisdom to be imparted per se; but that’s more of a compliment than a criticism. Despite being based around banal and/or vapid details (take-out szechuan, lost keys, blood-filled supersoakers), Macintosh is able to convey a complex sense of post-modern ennui through a series of mini-narratives that are both sympathetic and amusing. It’s a great example of Horatian satire: a delight to the senses that offers a new and peculiar sense of perspective.