SWMRS’ sophomore album, “Berkley’s on Fire,” has was released after a three-year wait on Feb. 15. The native Oakland, California band released their debut album, “Drive North,” in 2016.
However, following the 2016 release, the band had not put out a new single until they released the song “Berkley's on Fire” in August 2018. The song opens with an interesting drum pattern under a hardcore guitar tone, filled with the punk band’s trademark: political lyrics.
This single is definitely more mainstream alternative rock sounding, as opposed to their first album that was a masterpiece of modern punk, but nonetheless screamed SWMRS. Following the release of the first single, SWMRS followed with “April in Houston” in November 2018.
“April in Houston” is a slower song with an overly repetitive guitar riff that becomes increasingly boring as it continues on. However, the prior single offsets any potential disappointment you might have, as it’s a fantastic song and a symbol of power and angst.
In January 2019, the third and definitely best single, “Trash Bag Baby,” was released. The song has the most authentic, raw punk sound out of the three. The riff and lyrics are catchy, and the song has been consistently enjoyable to listen to.
I spent the next month replaying the singles in anticipation of the new album, but when the release day finally arrived, I was unfortunately disappointed.
The album has a fantastic opening with the song “Berkley's on Fire,” but it unfortunately gets worse from there. The second song “Too Much Coffee” has an opening riff with too much of a pop sound for a self-proclaimed punk band and lyrics that are way too try-hard to be relatable.
Songs six and seven on the album were completely underwhelming. “Lonely Ghosts” is forgettable. “IKEA Date” is generic.
However, not counting the singles, the two songs that stand out are “Lose Lose Lose” and “Hellboy.” These two songs have the most punk sound and “Lose Lose Lose” is most reminiscent of the vibe of the first album. It’s definitely the stand out song of the entire album.
“Hellboy” is a close second and the two together make up for the last two songs, which are horrible. “Bad Allergies” is a slow song that is even more boring than “April in Houston” and features weak vocals by guitarist Max Becker.
The final song on an album should make an impact, as it is the last thing the listener hears.
Unfortunately, the album’s closer, “Steve Got Robbed,” did the exact opposite. The track features auto-tuned vocals and an electronic drum beat. There is nothing punk about this song whatsoever and sounds like SWMRS’ horrible attempt to become a rap group.
Nonetheless, the album was a rollercoaster ride of okay, amazing and horrible songs throughout and “Steve Got Robbed” had the opportunity to completely change my opinion.
But what made this album flop? Could it be the the fact that SWMRS are now signed to Fueled by Ramen or the fact that they are so desperate to sell tickets they will stray from their punk roots?
Whichever it may be, SWMRS had the opportunity to follow up with an even greater album than “Drive North” but sadly failed. The album left me disappointed with only four songs I actually enjoy. Overall, “Berkley’s on Fire” was not the follow up I expected, and know for a fact the band could have and will do better in the future.