Sharks – The Future Is Unwritten

I’d rehearsed there myself, back in the early 90s, as part of a group once known as Worldwise, so I was no stranger to the rehearsal studios I entered that fateful day I first encountered Sharks, back in autumn 2008. Sharks’ singer, James Mattock, being the son of my erstwhile trakMARX compadre, Simon ‘Suburban Kid’ Mattock, had attracted my support before. I had previously attended various shows by James’ fledgling outfits, such as Deadly Long Legs, as he’d duly cut his musical teeth on the local Leamington Spa scene. However, this time was different. This time there’d been a bit of hype on the part of his father, and I’d entered the building expecting, nay demanding, that these boys put on a bit of a show for the oldest punker in town!

I wasn’t disappointed. They may have only been playing together since 2007, but Sharks already had the bones of their first EP wired into skeletal shape, and incendiary blasts through ‘Bury Your Youth’ and ‘It Threatens’ left me scrambling for superlatives. The first thing that impressed was drummer, Sam Lister, whose confident percussive dexterity propelled the group from drumstick-click-count-in to cymbal-crash-collapse with all the finesse of Ann Noreen Widdecombe on Strictly Come Dancing On Ice (On Amphetamine). The wailing feedback of guitar maestro, Andrew Bayliss, draped his Jonesian licks in squalls of white noise, over which James strained manfully to enunciate. Even original bassist, Adam Lovelock’s, questionable attire couldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I felt like Bernie Rhodes at Rehearsal Rehearsals back in 1976, these boys needed all the help they could get!

A couple of gigs later, with their set expanding in girth with each performance (to meet the inherent ambition within), Sharks beating heart compelled me to offer my services, in terms of guidance, logistical help and propaganda coordination. At the time I was attending Mid Warks CFE, and thus bumped into James and Andy on a fairly regular basis, as both were also studying there. With the birth of every new song, with each rapidly improving set, with every blistering studio session, I soon realised that there was little (or nothing) I could effectively do for the group, other than bore them rigid with tales of ghosts of punk-rock-Christmases-past . . . or proffer lessons in prêt-a-porter rock and roll rebellion. Finally, after a couple of months of dalliance, at a show in Birmingham supporting Dynamite Dreams, I explained to James that they’d be far better off with professional management, that they deserved the kind of support that their talent demanded, and that I was going to have to put social work before rock and roll. That night in Birmingham would ultimately prove to be one of the most important nights in the group’s history, not because they lost a barnacle, but because they inherited their new bass player, Cris O’Rielly, from the aforementioned headliners. With Cris on board, Sharks had finally evolved into the finished animal, and they began swimming towards shallower waters, ready to strike at the legs of the UK music industry, idly doggy-paddling in the surf.

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Not surprisingly, life got in the way, and as my studies duly expanded, Sharks got on with amassing the following impressive discography:

‘Shallow Waters’ – download EP (2008) – 10″ EP (Swagger City Records – 2010)

Sharks /Northern Towns – 7″ split (Swagger City Records – 2009)

‘Common Grounds’ – 7″ single (Atticus Black Records) (2009)

‘Show of Hands’ – CD (Best Before Records – 2010) – 12″ (Coffee Breath and Heartache – 2010)

‘Sweet Harness’ – 7″ single (Coffee Breath and Heartache – 2011)

Reports from the front line came thick and fast from Simon… tales of supports to Gallows, The Ghost Of A Thousand, Fucked Up, Babyshambles, The King Blues, Girls, Crime In Stereo, Lostprophets… and a UK & European tour support with Gaslight Anthem during 2010. They even made the Guardian in October of the same year, whose Paul Lester made Sharks his ‘good old-fashioned rabble-rousing’ punk rock band of the day, on 21 October 2010. His hyperbole squarely accused the group of marrying the Westway Parables of The Clash to the blue-collar health and safety risk assessments of Bruce Springsteen, praising the group for their honesty and endeavour, whilst patronising the genre pityingly, like some ennui-encrusted scenester who’d seen it all before, begging the question: Why bother?

I caught the odd show here and there, when time and locality permitted, including a memorable performance at Cox’s Yard, in Stratford-upon-Avon, where James pushed a few mic stands over at the end of the set, causing the venue’s resident amateur sound guy and professional arsehole to get all precious, and ban Sharks from the venue. He vaulted a barrier, rushed the length of the bar like a guest walking onto the set of The Jeremy Kyle Show, commenting to me as he passed: ‘Those mics are worth a ton of money, you know’. ‘Switch them on next time, then,’ I quipped.

My next encounter with Sharks came courtesy of You Tube and the short film for ‘It All Relates’. The footage begins with the garage door of the group’s rehearsal space rising to reveal a stage set draped in iconic artwork (nice one, Simon!). The group walk on, plug in, and kick off… a few bars in, Cris stops playing bass to pimp the collar of his Fred Perry… Sharks have arrived! ‘Cook Pass Babtridge’, says the bass-drum skin: ‘Ahaaaaaaaaaaa!’ says the world.

With a busy 2011 in prospect, including a US tour supporting Social Distortion, a slot on the Vans Warped tour, shows in Japan, and performances at both Leeds and Reading festivals booked, Sharks will finally get down to the business of recording their debut long player. With four songs demoed already: ‘Arcane Effigies’, ‘What Entails?’, ‘Turn To You’ & ‘Untitled’, the group’s work ethic this year is as blue-collar as those lazy Springsteen comparisons: ‘Once we finish all of our touring overseas, we will be starting work immediately on our first record. We’re planning to make a good record, but not a great one, otherwise our second record will be terrible in comparison.’

I supported Sharks a few weeks back, at Moo Bar, in Leamington Spa, warming up for them as they bade adieu to their local fans and supporters in an intimate and passionate fashion. I strummed a few of my own songs, before strutting through a cover of The Clash’s ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’ by way of a personal homage to their brilliance. The set Sharks played that night blew me away, quite literally putting my back out! Waves of young people slam-dancing like their lives depended on it, James lifted to the rafters atop willing hands, feedback squalling from overdriven amplifiers, mics squealing, cameras rolling, smart phones clicking, drinks spilling, pretty girls gasping at the sheer sex of it all. It reminded me how precious youth is, how fast life slips past, and how hard you must strive to make the most of every second of it. As Sharks encored their way through a coruscating cover of ‘I Fought The Law’, I felt like Joe Strummer must have the first time he saw the Sex Pistols – yesterday’s papers! I got home that night, energised, elated… the baton had been passed. A text arrived from Simon, it read: ‘The old school end with The Clash, the new school end with The Clash’… same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

Which brings us to The Joys of Living 2008-2010 – CD/LP (Velvet Scene/Rise Records – 2011) – the career-thus-far compilation recently released by Rise Records, Sharks’ US label. Featuring 14-tracks, and sequenced in reverse chronological order, the album tells the whole heroic story from rehearsal studio to four-figure-audiences, in stunning stereographical detail.

Forthcoming 45, ‘Sweet Harness’, kicks off Side One, wearing the maturity Sharks have earned on it’s lapel like a ‘Hope Not Hate’ badge at an EDL rally, strident, affecting, addictive: ‘Easy chemistry, only me/Easy chemistry, lonely me/Easy chemistry, positively correcting me when all I need is concrete, crookedly’. The album’s title track ticks a bunch of the Clash boxes alluded to by Paul Lester in The Guardian, except the time-frame is wrong, if anything, this is Cost Of Living era Clash, replete with harmonica and drop down and dub section, before Sam’s drums power back up to storm the outro chorus. Next up is live favourite, ‘Trains’: ‘How pathetic this must sound to a hope of finally getting out/How pathetic this must sound to someone who doesn’t even know he’s bored of this town/Try to make sense of what happens next and in the meantime I could have stolen a fucking car.’ Sharks at their most venomous, scathing, tongue-lashing the small-town mentalities with righteous anger.

‘It All Relates’ is anthemic, all terrace-chant backing vocals and sweet rock and roll licks; ‘We’d steal, but not to break common trade, but for desire to create/To give back what we took in and watch it bloom from the beginning again/I’ve never liked my voice anyways, and rock and roll needs tragedy/So if these bones collide well at least we tried and besides, I could do with some daylight’. ‘Three Houses’ already has a fan forum named after it, takes me back to The Star Spangles ‘Bazooka’, and the promise of 2003. ‘More Blue’ rides an understated verse to another killer chorus, never designed to be, at its inception, but this is an album track, and a grower to boot. ‘Glove In Hand’ closes the side in a hail of molten lead guitar and haunting melody, setting the maturity I spoke of upfront in aspic, ready and able to take its place in the rock and roll hall of fame.

Side Two opens with previous 45, ‘Capital Youth’, a storming assault on the sensibilities that summons the massed choirs of times-past terrace dwellers to the mic for the chorus. Once again, it’s anthem after anthem, pedal to the metallic KO, not a second wasted, not a moment too soon, or too much, either. ‘Common Grounds’ is up next, a big-balls dose of care in the community, and a timely reminder that Sharks care more than they should, more than their years, more than any rock and roll band has for many years, these boys mean it, maaaan, and this song should swell the pride in the breast of any thinking person’s chest, or stoke the agitation in any rebel-rocking aficionado worth their weight in Socialist Worker handbills. ‘Yours To Fear’ takes us right back to the Shallow Waters EP, a beautiful piano drenched eulogy to the innocence of youth made glorious summer by its cyclical guitar motif that enters at 1:35, and rides the track till the wheels fall off.

‘Fallen On Deaf Ears’ still electrifies to this day, fully realising all that promise it exuded from the get-go. Similarly, ‘It Threatens’ continues to take me by the throat and refuses to let go, until I gasp for breath, cardiac palpitations akimbo, brothel creepers a thousand-yard-stare apart, leg shaking like St. Joe on cheap speed. Man, that piano kills. ‘Bury Your Youth’ swaggers, a skank in sheep’s clothing, my life swims around me, takes one look and drowns me. The album closes with the awesome-to-this-day strains of ‘The Light At The End Of The Tunnel’, I was in the studio the day these songs were thrown down, and, in spite of everything I’ve witnessed in 35-years of geekboy-fandom-thrall, these are the groovy times I will pass down to my daughters in my time of dying.

Sharks Links:




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Rise Records:


iTunes LP Download:


Simon Morgan – 27/04/11

Simon Morgan

Punk rocker, folk strummer, baby social worker, and parent, Simon Morgan is a polymath. He has brought you many things in his time – as Jean Encoule he created the legendary trakMARX website, but has now stepped from behind his alter ego to reveal his true, vibrant colours. Despite having gone prematurely orange, he maintains a youthful open-mindedness, which he combines with his vast experience and ready wit. His debut solo album, Domestic Abuse is now available. “Spirit/Is Life/It flows through/The death of me/ Endlessly/Like a River/ Unafraid/Of Becoming/The sea.” (Gregory Corso)

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Originally posted 2011-03-28 11:35:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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