A little bit for everyone
SWMRS (pronounced “swimmers”) is a band from Oakland, California. The band released three previous albums under a different band name, Emily’s Army. And while Emily’s Army certainly garnered a strong amount of hype, SWMRS has decided to hit the restart button. Berkeley’s On Fire is their first release under the SWMRS name.
Brothers Cole and Max Becker both are multi-instrumentalists. They both sing and alternate between rhythm and lead guitar duties, but their versatility as instrumentalists goes far beyond this. Cole also plays piano/keyboard/synth while Max is adept at bass. Even with this immense amount of talent, Cole and Max cannot do everything. In 2014, they sought out the help of Seb Mueller on bass. This freed up Max to be a lead guitarist. On top of this, their drummer, Joey Armstrong, happens to be the son of Billie Joe Armstrong (guitarist and vocalist of Green Day). This clout has certainly helped SWMRS rise amongst the ranks of punk bands. The real question is do they deserve the hype? Can Cole, Max and company create records that live up to the promise they have? The answer is a resounding yes. Berkeley’s On Fire is a stunning display of moody and creative punk rock.
“Too Much Coffee” has an interesting harmonic guitar intro that maintains itself throughout the entire song. The other guitar riff is somewhat reminiscent of The Cure with its light, catchy and melodic tone. “Trashbag Baby” is clearly influenced by surf rock. The guitar work paired with the dual vocals works really well on this track. The way they use call and response on this track is sure to mesmerize listeners. You will want to follow Cole and Max’s every command.
“Lose Lose Lose” has a captivating electronic-pop feel. The upbeat tempo paired with the distorted guitar and bass parts on the track give this song an attitude that is contagious, and the subtle use of modulation on the quieter areas of the song is quite tasteful, as well. There is also a neat combination of live and programmed drums. There is a bridge around the 2:30 mark where the vocals layer on top of each other. This section makes the song truly encompassing–it feels like the music is spinning in your head. This song displays tremendous creativity and ultimately shows the power of a good producer.
“April In Houston” is an interesting curveball with this acoustic ballad. This track proves that SWMRS have a lot of versatility with their sound. The band has a huge pool of influences to draw from, and it shows. The way the band is able to create a unique sound while paying homage to their favorite acts is truly commendable. Maybe one day they will completely go away from these influences, but for now, it is nice to have an insight into where this band is coming from.
Overall, SWMRS has a real gem with Berkeley’s On Fire. From start to finish they display high levels of creativity, diversity and overall dynamics in their songwriting. The nuanced songwriting and impressive individualism displayed here shows that SWMRS live up to the hype around their name. They have the potential to be a truly phenomenal band.