I had never heard a single song by The Sheds until I put on I’ll Be Fine for the first time. I can’t say that my first impression was a very positive one, but at the same time I can’t I say that it was a very negative one either. My reaction was very lukewarm- I felt as if I’ll Be Fine was something that I had heard a million times throughout high school, and while I didn’t find it offensive to my ears, it was extremely easy to just keep it on as background noise while I mindlessly browsed the web.
Honestly, that kind of indifference to music can be kind of alarming. Obviously great albums make for a fun time, and even terrible albums can be enjoyable to write about sometimes, but if the nicest thing I can say about an album is “it was okay to listen to while I scrolled through countless AV Club articles”, well then that’s not a very promising album.
As I was making my final judgement, I caught some of the lyrics to a song and decided to re-think my haste. The track in question, “Ignorance Is Bliss”, calls out religious bigotry in a very specific manner, and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting to hear. Historically, punk has a tendency to lean more to the left than to the right on the political spectrum, so to know that The Sheds support same-sex marriage isn’t completely surprising. However, the way that they vocalize their support so brazenly, like using a hate group’s own words to highlight how ugly intolerance can be, is what caught me off guard.
Upon actually listening to the lyrics, I immediately started I’ll Be Fine from the beginning again. While there aren’t any other songs quite as captivating as “Ignorance Is Bliss”, The Sheds still show that they aren’t afraid to call out others for contradicting behavior in the all-too-short “Almost Famous”. And in “Writer’s Block”, the band demonstrates their ability to turn the inability to write into a song (although they break the cardinal rule of writer’s block: Never write about writer’s block!).
Musically, I’ll Be Fine is a pretty run-of-the-mill 90’s skate-punk influenced album. Lots of fast tempos blended with the occasional element of third wave ska. If you’ve ever even slightly dipped your toe into vast ocean of albums that either Epitaph or Fat put out twenty years ago then you’ll know how this works- pretty much anyone who got into punk during high school should have the hang of it by now.
Lyrically, however, is where The Sheds shine. Generally speaking, punk has always stood behind the idea that you should stand up for what you believe in, but (again, I’m speaking generally here) that’s an ideal that has become kind of watered down as time has passed, particularly among bands that receive larger press coverage in the scene. It’s refreshing to see a band that isn’t Rise Against tackling serious (and sometimes less serious) issues, especially in such a particularly bold way. It almost completely makes up for the band’s ‘been there, done that’ musical style.