A Mosaic of Punk Past | “Spitting Image” by Sham Family


Matt Cruz, Media Librarian

One of the most exciting aspects of being a media librarian for the Impact is being able to listen to album advances from small and large artists alike. Sometimes a recognizable voice puts out a lukewarm project. Other times, a small artist puts out a diamond in the rough. 

Sham Family is the latest edition in my small reservoir of great projects from the great unknown. Their self-titled EP released on Jan. 22, and is chock full of noisy anarchy, footloose guitar licks and the pent up aggression of perpetual failure. Outside of the excellent cuts “Lasso” and “This Blue Mob,” the true dynamism of Sham Family comes from their EP closer, “Spitting Image.”

Steady and pummeling garage-punk snares lay the percussive groundwork behind the lead singer’s voice as spacious guitar chords ooze from the rafters. Between the hypnotic performance of the band itself, the exceptional, monotonous vocals always seem to teeter on the edge of insanity. 

“Doesn’t it feel strange /

Does it feel odd /

Will everything change /

Will I find god?”

This grand delusion that clouds you continually shifts from a dense fog, to a massive clearing mid-battle. While the vocal delivery may be unsure, the confident instrumentation tricks you into thinking the opposite. Entering the bridge, Sham Family showcases their knack for pop sensibilities in the rapturous atmosphere before the main verse.

“​​If I fuck up /

(will I find god?) /

If I should meet you in the doldrums /

(will I find god?)”

The harmonizing vocals in the background compliment the angular edge of the neurotic singing, creating a heavenly instrumental that is as chromatic as it is rusted. 

With the first chorus, you begin to see Sham Family for all who have come before — Shame; Joy Division; Idles; Protomartyr; Black Country, New Road; black midi — fragments everywhere. You see it in the energetic, life-giving guitar, the dopesick vocals, and the dissonant atmosphere they inhibit. While Sham Family is indeed a family of punk influence, they are no sham.

Sham Family pushes the envelope past their influences, and degrades their brand of post-punk into a complete skeleton not seen in the current zeitgeist. 

The drums devolve into a buoy of rhythm, destroying the fleeting “pop sensibility” before — he’s finally snapped. Every single riff, melody, and calf-sweeping rhythm has been violently sucked out through a neurotic proboscis. While some may think that the song has atrophied, such an assumption is that of a fool. Before the listener unravels an evolution, a transcendence into a greater form. 

Instead, the internal chaos and meltdown is portrayed with brutal honesty — every transistor has shorted, and there’s nothing left aside from the deafening thoughts overpowering every emotion. It is working as intended. 

“Spit me out, slip in my mess /

Suck out the poison, then take another guess /

A spitting image /

Black mold on black rocks /

Cursed With a tongue to speak /

And a line to cross /

A spitting image /

Down to the bone /

Cursed With a tongue to speak /

And a body that I’ve outgrown”

These vocals turn into howls of entrancing agony. What was once the fleeting echo of post punk, had turned completely into the grunge of no wave. 

“Spit” — he screams over a fury of dissonance. A fury of instruments. A fury of himself. 

A fury that has destroyed everything in its wake.

In the past 7 minutes, Sham Family journeyed on a multi-structural expedition into the tropes and evolution of post-punk. Within their respect for their idols and contemporaries, lies a poignant command and understanding of their craft. While many may see this as derivative, the attention to detail is merely the faux-amateurism of a budding auteur. Will Sham Family be the next great post-punk act? Who knows — but with talent like this, I can only see good things for them in the days to come.