I’m always cautious when a band releases two albums just a year apart. EP compilations or live albums notwithstanding, a year just doesn’t really seem like a whole lot of time in between collections of brand new music- particularly for the listeners. Fans will always claim that they want more music from their favorite bands, but sometimes overexposure to an artist, be it through hearing the same single over and over again on the radio, or from just being overwhelmed by too much music all at once, can grow tiresome very quickly. And that’s exactly what my concern when was when I heard that England’s Sharks was already gearing up to release Selfhood, their second LP, just a mere thirteen months after the release of their debut album, No Gods. Has enough time really passed to unleash new music unto the world, or does it come too close to the heels of No Gods and just live in the shadow of its older sibling?
As it turns out, it’s a little from column A, a little from column B.
That isn’t to say that Selfhood is essentially No Gods Part II. As it so happens, while a lot of the songs on this album follow in the same less-punk, more-rock style that Sharks laid-down the foundations for on their debut album, Selfhood also sees Sharks taking that approach and stripping it down even more. The band decided that with this album, they wanted to capture their raw, live element, and they also decided that the only way to truly capture that live feel was to record the album live in the studio, using minimal studio trickery throughout the process. And it shows. The bells and whistles of No Gods are all gone: the layered guitars are brought down to two, and there are no additional musicians contributing backing tracks. Selfhood shows Sharks at their most naked without resorting to being an acoustic album.
Other than changing their approach to recording in the studio, not much else has changed. Tracks like “Bloody Wings”, “The More You Ask, The Less I’m Sure”, and “Grey View”, all capture the band’s ability to write a hook, fitting in with the band’s past catalogue with ease. Guitarist Andrew Bayliss is still laying down rock and roll leads like he’s some sort of hybrid of Mick Jones and Alex Rosamilia, while drummer Sam Lister has locked into a tight groove with newcomer Carl Murrihy (bass), setting down a foundation for Bayliss to go wild over. Front-man James Mattock still sings with a hint of Joe Strummer in his voice, although the influence isn’t nearly as strong as it was in the past, and Mattock begins to come into his own as vocalist during moments like the near spoken bridge of “Gold” or the mid-tempo “Wild One”.
I’ll be honest: during my first listen of Selfhood I wasn’t too impressed, and I was ready to write it off as No Gods, Part II. But with each listen, I began to realize that my hasty opinion was fueled entirely by my uncertainty of band’s releasing albums too close to one another. With Selfhood, Sharks have taken everything that they did on No Gods, and then gutted it to remove all the excess, leaving the band with the only necessary ingredients: the four of them. Sharks may not have found the secret to reinventing rock and roll in the last twelve months, but Selfhood also proves that the band hasn’t quite jumped over some any large, and potentially life-threatening, sea creatures just yet.