Desert Sharks "The Tower" EP/LP (2023)
Details: Desert Sharks "The Tower" LP (2023, Substitute Scene Records). New stock, comes open/arrived direct from artist/label.
Description: "The Tower pushes off right from the gate with the single “Medusa”: no waiting for the good stuff, just 4 hits of the cymbal and boom—bass, guitar, and vocals kick right in, “He wanted to show me the bottom of the ocean.” The lyrics were inspired by the myth of Medusa to create what Gunther calls an “anthem of feminine rage and reclamation of power.” “I’ll turn you into stone,” she declares.
“Sleepy Pie” is a bit more frenetic. “If you wanna love me, how can you live without me?” the lyrics ask in this sweet yet sinister track. “You make me a flesh and blood fantasy.” The video finds the quartet in a sleepover gone wrong (I know we all remember at least one incident in our teens with a seance or a Ouija board, right?) and cleverly uses the tarot card imagery. (The lilies from the video for “Medusa” also appear, and it’s cool to see the band using a cohesive aesthetic.)
The record moves around in tone, exploring sometimes a doomier sound (“Emotional Breakdown”) and sometimes a poppier one (“Ego Death”) but the band never stops rocking. Even the slowest feeling track, the 6/8 time “Shadows,” induces headbanging. Fruchter’s drumming really drives everything forward, and Veniero and Smith’s one-two guitar punch nails it down over Gunther’s bass, while her voice is beautifully complemented by Smith’s backing vocals.
The title track “The Tower” is a truly epic closer, full of rolling toms and grinding bass and guitar, complete with a wailing solo. “I know things will never be the same / still I’m holding on to what remains,” Gunther sings, and it all ends on a chant of “the end… the beginning.” It all fits perfectly with the theme of the Tower card, on which Gunther elaborated: “I dabble with tarot. I’m not going to act like I’m an expert. I had a tower year [in 2022]. The tower card is one of the most intense cards because it represents major upheaval, chaos, and destruction. But on the other hand, it offers space for newness, enlightenment, and change.”
The production by Jeff Berner hits the sweet spot, crisp and clear without being slick. Gunther notes that the recording process was a bit different this time around; with the band practicing less in person after the upheaval of the past few years, they learned new technology: “…all our previous times going into the studio, we didn’t have demos really. Like, we had phone demos from the practice space. Being pushed to work with GarageBand more, we switched our writing style to where it’s like, let’s actually record it out how we want the final product to sound.” The band enjoyed their studio time with Berner, with Gunther saying: “The way it feels when you record with Jeff Berner is that you have this other member in your band who is just as excited and just as dedicated to getting the sound that you want.“
Desert Sharks are sometimes compared to the greats like L7 and Veruca Salt, and it’s warranted: The Tower is Desert Sharks at the top of their game, able to hold their own with those beloved bands. As this is an EP (six tracks long), I’m reminded of Blow It Out Your Ass, It’s Veruca Salt, possibly that band’s best work. Sometimes shorter is better as a showcase.
The Tower doesn’t feel short, though. The EP is one solid track after another, and the songs are so fully realized that by the time those six tracks are over, the listener has had a complete experience. It’s the best work that Desert Sharks have put out to date, and it’s poised to be a breakthrough for them."--Full Time Aesthetic
Grade: M (new stock)
TRACK LISTING SIDE A:
A2. Sleepy Pie
A3. Emotional Breakdown
TRACK LISTING SIDE B:
B1. Ego Death
B3. The Tower