Album Review: SWMRS – Drive North

By Jane Dickerson, Contributor

[Uncool; 2016]

Rating: 3.5/5

Key Tracks: “Hannah,” “Harry Dean,” “Figuring It Out”

Starting off with a bang, SWMRS’s third full length album, Drive North, combines lo-fi sounds reminiscent of surf rock with bold punk undertones. This band has caught a lot of buzz already on account of the drummer, Joey Armstrong, being the son of Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, but this record in particular earned itself a lot of hype due to Zac Carper of FIDLAR handling the production. “Harry Dean” kicks it off with striking vocals, James Dean references, and quick, loud guitar.

High expectations were obviously set for this album, and those expectations were generally met. SWMRS combines the quick-paced instruments with angry lyrical monologues similar to those of bands like Wavves and FIDLAR with the carefree beach sound of Best Coast. Their more garage rock moments sound closer to Japandroids or, at times, even punk-ier ensembles such as Black Flag.

SWMRS’s text chat song names and lyrics are very teenage with an untamed, confrontational twist. They combine heavier instruments with lyrics that most make references to leather jackets, weekends at the beach, incense, driving around and a lot of getting high. While it’s all a bit cliché, it achieves what it aims to–although sometimes it seems a bit generic and unoriginal, it definitely makes a place for itself in the niche group of west coast punk.

“Miss Yer Kiss” is one of the slower, more emotional tracks with weaker instruments. This is where the album’s consistency gets a bit lost. “Hannah,” however, is a better done version of this–Cole Becker’s voice is impressively dreamy and melodic. “Figuring it Out” sounds like it’d be featured in a coming-of-age movie, and is a song that perfectly parallels the monotony of life as a teenager with the magic of having no responsibilities. Take into consideration its catchy chorus, well done drums and guitar riffs by Zac Becker, and it’s undoubtedly a highlight of the album.

Some choruses such as the ones featured in “Turn Up” and “Ruining my Pretending” are a bit too similar to subpar pop-punk bands one would find at a day spent at Warped Tour. Overall, Drive North is a pleasantly nostalgic record with a few shortcomings in lyrical depth, made up for with the evident talent in instruments and vocals.

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