Information on the Austin, Texas-based heavy rocking foursome American Sharks is sparse – which is impressive given their social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, etc.) – but what it rounds out to is I can’t even say for certain if their recently-issued Weedwizard 7” is their first or not. It’s the first of their output I’ve encountered if not the first overall, so my inclination is to regard it as a debut, and the upbeat energy they show on the two included tracks, “”XVI” and “Indian Man,” would speak to a freshness of ideas in general, so even if it isn’t the first thing American Sharks have put out, it functions well on an introductory level. Not the least because of the short amount of time it takes up. Between “XVI” and “Indian Man,” Weedwizard (released by Pau Wau Records) clocks in with less time than inches on the record; both songs are just under three minutes. Nonetheless, within that span, Mike, Will, Nick and Zach, make a solid effort at establishing an aesthetic and context for future releases to come.
Their sound is new-school American stoner, taking cues from punk and metal’s heavy rocking forebears – The Stooges, MC5, etc. – and filtering them through modern indie/hipster shimmy, resulting in a sub-metallic swagger not at all unlike that which Portland, Oregon’s Red Fang affected on their 2011 album, Murder the Mountains. American Sharks have work ahead of them in establishing their own personality within this context, but the punkish pulse to “XVI” and “Indian Man,” though rudimentary, gives no indication it can’t be done. Transplants from Houston, the band clearly have some idea of what they’re doing and where it can be best presented, and with the grooves they lock in on these two songs – if Weedwizard is in fact their first outing – in less than six minutes, they’ve made a solid argument in their own favor. The shuffle fueling “XVI” draws a direct line to Red Fang’s wires in its overall affect, but the guitar lead that kicks in at the beginning of the final minute is confident enough in its tone and execution – and the rhythms behind it are likewise assured – that it’s enough to hold the attention. The charm of a 7” called Weedwizard and the complementing cover art (if that’s not Ryan Lesser of Megasus’ work, I’d be amazed) notwithstanding, American Sharks show a burgeoning depth of songwriting that does well here and hopefully will continue to grow.
Compared to the A-side, “Indian Man” is even more punk, with insistent percussion and a tension in its verse that “XVI” seemed to avoid in favor of a more immediate, up-front lightheartedness. The two songs having been recorded separately, there’s some disparity of tone and drum sounds, but it’s not offensively incongruous, and with the split of a vinyl flip between them, it’s barely noticeable and not until you look at the recording info that it would even stand out as being more than a change from one song to another. Near the end of the song, there is a gang vocal kind of monkey noise, and that’s a bit problematic, but I’m not sure exactly what the band were going for with it, so I’m inclined to reserve judgment and just let the track play out for what it is. Like its predecessor, “Indian Man” displays potential for American Sharks to transcend their beginnings and forge something more of their own, but they’re not really at that stage yet, so if you take on Weedwizard by listening to any of the digital outlets where the four-piece has made it available, it’s worth approaching with some idea in mind of what you’re going to get. By the same token, I’ll say too that it’s worth approaching, and that whatever American Sharks may or may not do in the future, what they’re doing in the present satisfies plenty.American Sharks, Austin, Pau Wau Records, Texas