SWMRS "Berkeley's On Fire" Review

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Bay Area neo-punks SWMRS are one of the more fascinating bands in the modern era. This is partly due to their history as a dead-end everyday pop- punk band several years ago. Prior to 2015, they called themselves Emily’s Army where they released one full-length under Adeline Records (Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s label) and a full-length and EP under Rise Records. Both of their full-lengths were produced by Armstrong, and obviously it helped that his son, Joey, happens to be the drummer of the band.

The long and short of the band’s history is that they turned countless Green Day comparisons and a dead-end sound into one of the more promising rock acts of the decade. After switching to the moniker SWMRS in 2015 and releasing their debut album Drive North, the quartet was picked up by indie label Fueled By Ramen. FBR is home to influences like Paramore, Panic! At the Disco, previously Fall Out Boy, and more recently All Time Low (whom the band has toured with).

A portion of SWMRS’ mission is to revolutionize modern music. Vocalist and guitarist Max Becker has posted about this numerous times on Twitter, even the single “April In Houston” proclaims “modern music makes me sick.” And the SWMRS sophomore effort Berkeley’s On Fire is a very confident album in pursuing this.

Another SWMRS mission is to create both a safe and political space for their fans. Unlike Drive North, Berkeley’s On Fire is much more consistent with an ebb-and-flow that dominates the record. “Berkeley’s On Fire” discusses the California wildfires; “Lose Lose Lose” tackles modern-day politics (the line “2019 is a fucking disaster” marks one of the best on the album); “Lonely Ghosts” is a post-rock anthem; “April In Houston” is a catchy banger held up by Cole Becker’s phenomenal (and improving) vocals; even the deeper cut “Bad Allergies” hidden in the back of the record offers a slow, joyous riff lead by Max Becker’s chilling vocal swoons.

Berkeley’s On Fire is a remarkable album headed by production from Rich Costey (Death Cab For Cutie, Muse). There are political references, modern-day music references, and references about frustration in general. SWMRS are one of the most promising rock acts forthcoming in 2019 and they are just getting started.

By Brad LaPlante | bradlaplantemedia@gmail.com