Within the alternative music scene, it’s rare to find a band that faithfully embodies a relatable sense of humour. Some groups—both old and new—like Horse the Band, Iwrestledabearonce, Don Broco, and Eskimo Callboy immediately spring to mind. Not to mention whatever the hell Jarrod Alonge is up to right now.
Sadly, however, those willing to send up their peers—while also poking fun at the strictures of a culture that is all-too guilty of skewing towards pretension and self-seriousness—are increasingly few and far between. In this respect, Maryland hardcore/metalcore outfit Sharptooth are a welcome breath of fresh air. Lead single and opener “Say Nothing (In The Absence Of Content)” from their sophomore full-length album, Transitional Forms, presents itself as an entertaining and engaging musical experience.
Musically, the track finds guitarists Keet Higgins and Lance Donati chugging away with glee, as bassist Peter Bruno and drummer Matt Hague help to break up the heaviness with rock grooves and punk-fuelled fury. And yet, the video (directed by Anthony Altamura) tells a vastly different story, by using striking contrast to maximum effect. Frontwoman Lauren Kashan cosplays as pop star celebs like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, dancing around all sweet, bubbly, and nice, while her coarse screams and harsh vocals slam through this glittery façade like a fist to the face. And if watching Sharptooth have this much fun taking the piss doesn’t get the message across, then overly self-aware lyrics like “Mosh call/ Generic mosh call/ It must be nice to say nothing at all” really drive the point home. There’s an intentional audiovisual dissonance at play that effectively skewers the commodity fetishization of music, art, and creative expression.
Elsewhere on Transitional Forms, “Life On The Razor’s Edge” rests on a haunting progressive build-up with charged riffage from Higgins and Donati, as Kashan stares down her demons and wrestles with her past. Back-end deep cuts like “153,” “The Southern Strategy” and “M.P.D.B (Manic Pixie Dream Bitch)” mix the rollicking southern rock of Every Time I Die and the breakdown brutality of Knocked Loose to devastating effect. And on “The Gray,” mental health takes center stage as Kashan gets pointed with a confronting retort to ideological absolutism and the denial of personal trauma.
Short ragers like “Mean Brain,” “Evolution” and “The Southern Strategy” combine serpentine leads with stomping grooves, where hints of melody act as counterpoints to outright sonic destruction. Anti-sexism screed “Hirudinea” sports Kashan screaming venomous lyrics (“You’re always silent when there’s work to be done/ You’re not a feminist just because you fucked one”) over the top of dissonant panic chords and a down-tuned beatdown.
However, if there’s any criticism to level at Transitional Forms, the combination of styles and tones can feel a little uneven at times, with a lack of cohesion overall making for an abrupt and disjointed experience. It almost feels like the listener could dive in and out of the track list at any point, which, in the age of streaming singles and playlists, may be advantageous; however, this does detract somewhat from Sharptooth’s positive messaging.
Purchase Transitional Forms here.