Sophomore albums are almost more important than debuts. A band’s debut shows the world its music, but a sophomore LP has to further solidify the band as one to watch while also meeting or surpassing whatever it did with its first release.
With Berkeley’s On Fire, California-based SWMRS not only does what a sophomore album is supposed to do, but exceeds it.
The band hails from Oakland, and although there are four members, initial attention for the band came from drummer Joey Armstrong, son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. However, its debut Drive North set the band on the path for a bit of greatness developed all by its music.
Following up the debut, Berkeley’s On Fire is a rollercoaster of punk-ridden songs that sound a bit different yet meld into one big album. Where some songs delve into a loud, raucous approach, others utilize acoustic guitar or other elements.
It’s obvious the band pulls from a multitude of influences. From Ramones to The Beach Boys, SWMRS pulls from the nuances of a lot of bands, but altogether has its own sound. The band is also adventurous and doesn’t necessarily restrict itself to the so-called image of punk music.
Where the album has an acoustic-led track like “Bad Allergies,” there’s a matching one that’s the complete opposite, like the chaos-inducing “Lose Lose Lose.” But the band also experiments with sound, and that’s ever present on closing track “Steve Got Robbed.” Pulling on variations of a gritty, hip-hop influenced sound, the track slightly reels in comparison to Rage Against The Machine with its scratchy riff.
The pivotal track on SWMRS latest album is the opening track, which also acts as the title track. “Berkeley’s On Fire” not only beckons what the band had done in its previous work, but it excels it further. It’s loud, in-your-face and dwells on the topic of societal desensitization due to the media. It’s bonkers and crazy, but that’s what the band intends it to be.
SWMRS isn’t here to fade in the lulls of modern music and Berkeley’s On Fire definitely shows this. While pulling from the narrative of ’60s punk, the band is somehow still progressive. Though exuding punk rock, the band still experiments in sound. The album is unlike anything released in 2019 so far, and it’s fair to argue that SWMRS is unlike any band of its time right now.
Rating: 4 / 5