I’ve written about Sharkmuffin in the past, and they’re back with another way-out disc filled with punk angst and riot girl panache on Tsuki.
Sharkmuffin is Tarra Thiessen and Natalie Kirch, a duo of Brooklynite sirens bred from the waves of the Jersey Shore. Influenced by everyone from Nirvana to The Ronettes, Sharkmuffin adds a unique jagged edge onto ‘60s beach pop meets ‘90s alt sound, a genre lovingly dubbed “opti-mystic glam-grunge.” With several cross-country tours (including many return trips to SXSW) and no shortage of EPs, Sharkmuffin has been creating a veritable whirlpool of musical chaos. Their 2015 debut LP, Chartreuse (featuring Patty Schemel of Upset/Hole on drums), is their most vicious lure, featuring 10 tracks that bleed heavily with feminine rage and cheeky sass alike. We covered that disc right here, and it was one of the year’s best offerings.
Sharkmuffin is currently out on tour in support of their sophomore effort titled Tsuki, visiting the cities of Great Britain with Drew Adler on drums & Chris Nunez on guitar, and plan to serve up their signature sound of punk rock, psychedelia and pop roots rock mix of goodness across the pond. The band has made much headway for a group so young and have been touted in the press and public as one of the next big things on the music scene today.
Recorded in Los Angeles at the world-famous Record Plant, their label, the Asbury Park-based Little Dickman Records, and Amy Earixson sent me the latest record to get my opinion on some of the 15 songs that grace Tsuki.
“Grandma Sharkmuffin Says” starts things off with a proverbial bang. “Don’t Worry about shit, let’s just go have a good time,” she says before the band kicks into “Space Glow.” The song reminds me of the sounds of Kim Deal and The Breeders record, Last Splash. Sonically howling, “Space Glow” combines complex rhythms with frenetically powerful guitars and choice vocals. The lo-fi treatment works for this band, unlike many others that sound like they’re trying to be something they’re not. Tarra delivers raw and melodic vocal chops and infectious guitar medleys here right from the get-go. The girls slip down the rabbit hole wet with echo and reverb drenched pentatonic delight as drums (Kin Deuss) and bass (Natalie) lock it all in place. I also love the backing oohs that act as a sort of hook for the song. Ballsy and filled with attitude.
“Jury Duty” hits next and it’s as raucous as the last tune. Brimming with garage punk moxie, “Jury Duty” moves a fast pace, tearing into your sensibilities and leaving you with a lasting impression of a band destined for bigger things. Feedback-drenched guitars comp thick chords over the top of solid bass and drum work as Tarra’s vocals scream and wail their message. Verses are smart and composed oh so well as they set themselves up with transcending bridgework and killer choruses. Tarra’s lead guitar work buzzes like a hummingbird at the feeder as the girls move to their ultimate hanging conclusion.
“Little Bird” lays back a bit, slowing down and grooving heavily in the verses as the band gets loose and in the pocket. The attitude of this song reminded me of Jane’s Addiction when they were young and hungry. Tarra oozes a sensual, unkempt vocal delivery here as well. I love her snarl and vocal grit throughout the disc, but it shines on “Little Bird.” The guitar lead is a spacey and psychedelically driven delight for the senses, and the feedback just adds to the pleasant feel of the overall song.
If the band has a single, “Puppy Love” is the one for me. With a combination of punkish sass and growl, the girls also blend a modicum of pop-infused brilliance into the piece as well. Tarra can go from low, throaty growl to ultra-powerful soprano at the drop of a hat. Once again composition-wise, this song has everything you need to create the proper reaction. It kicks off with hard punching bass work of Natalie and giggles before things take off. Strong verses lead to addictive choruses, and guitars churn and burn like Jason Everman from early Nirvana days. I love Tarra’s space-age guitar noise in the final few sections of the song. I’m also a big fan of Tarra’s vocal nuances in the bridges. The way she does those oohs at the end of the syllables is a total hook that stays with you for days. I also dig the way guitars go from subdued, tube-fueled bliss to full-out snarling bite. This is a great song, and I’m sure this one will go over quite well with old and new fans alike.
“Factory” is another perfectly composed number that fuses pop with psychedelic delights. Tarra winds smoky lyrical delivery around semi-clean electrics, bass (Natalie) and drums very much like Karen O from Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. The overall compositional sound is reminiscent of something Courtney Love might have done if she survived herself. I like the pianos here as well. Clean and bell-like, they add much melody structure to an unyielding song. I love the vocal delivery here as well, as Tarra goes from low toned groan to full-on power with the flick of the tongue. Natalie and Kim nail things to the floor with style. This should do well on radio also.
Natalie steps up to the lead vocal plate on “Atama.” Sounding like something out of a Japanese anime cartoon or almost anything by Deerhoof, Natalie is serenaded along with sonic beeps and electronic backing tracks as she sings her short but fascinating piece in what sounds like another language.
I also wanted to mention a song called “Stacy.” Natalie and Kim command the front as guitars buzz in the back and under Tarra’s vocal prowess. The studio work on this is perfect, and it concentrates on presenting the band in a very intense light without relying on filler or extra stuff that isn’t needed. I love the slide guitar in the second verse. The chorus works like magic as well here too. Once again Tarra blends her whirling dervish of styles and attack as very few others could hope to. I love how she can go from zero to 100 MPH in seconds. The guitars analog delay twisting, in the end, is stellar as well.
I don’t have space to cover the entire 15-song album but suffice to say, after listening to the record, my vows as a fan are completely renewed. You owe it to yourself to go out and get this record; you’ll thank me once you listen to the raw power and energy these girls truly do provide.
Sharkmuffin takes off for Great Britain on May 11 for a 16-date tour taking them from Chelmsford to Brighton and places in between. They should be back in the area on or around June 1.
For more information on Sharkmuffin and their fantastic new record, Tsuki, head over to sharkmuffin.com and get the details on the record and the band’s live shows.