In case you didn’t know, SWMRS is a four-piece punk band from Oakland, California. They’ve been around a while, since 2004, churning out a slurry of albums and EPs culminating in this, Berkeley’s On Fire their latest.
This record is a bit less surf punk-influenced than their previous album, the far better designed and shaped, Drive North. What this record is, at heart, I don’t really have the foggiest idea, even after repeat explorations of its scant charms. While its abrasive tone and gobsmacked hooks tickle the fancy, it really lands me nowhere.
Whether you feel the same comes down to what you want out of punk rock in these days of late capitalism, constant social surveillance, and creeping authoritarian rule. Should you desire sharp, bowery storytelling with social meaning, there is some of that on this record, but not enough to define it. Want something carefree and just to-hell-with-it-all, driving fast with the windows open? There are moments of that here, too, where the band really edges toward breaking free, although they’re not really impressive and long-lasting enough to define the record’s overall zeitgeist.
This is the kind of album that drifts around. It’s confused. These guys aren’t mad about anything; they’re not rebelling against anything; they’re not saying anything. They’re just recording songs that must sound good in the echo chamber of their jam sessions. “Trashbag Baby” is a cool track, but after rolling through, I’m over it. I like the title song about one and a half times through, but peel back that layer, eh…
It’s all just ‘meh.’ Whatever you like in punk… hold on, whatever you need from punk, SWMRS and Berkeley’s On Fire isn’t likely offering it.