At first glance, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that SWMRS are a set of fresh new faces to the music scene. After a name change or two, the band formerly known as Emily’s Army have tried to distance themselves from their past, presumably to escape the label of “that band with Billie Joe Armstrong’s kid in”. In fact, Drive North is the band’s first LP to date which the Green Day frontman has not produced – FIDLAR front man Zac Carper took over the wheel on this release.
The album opens with booming drums, distorted guitar and rough, gritty vocals on Harry Dean. While the song itself does not offer a great deal in terms of originality, it ticks all the boxes for a fun, teen-angst fuelled tune (though its lyrics do run the risk of creeping into cliché territory). The second track, Brb, is more heartfelt and features a catchy chorus – so contagious and danceable in fact that this is a highlight of the whole album.
Unfortunately, the album takes a downward turn after the first five and a half minutes and it seems as though SWMRS can’t quite keep up the pace. Third track Miss Yer Kiss is completely cringe-worthy and lacks the energy of the tracks it follows, while Turn Up follows suit in that its lyrics might as well have been taken from a list of the most lovey-dovey 60s boy band lyrics ever written.
Figuring It Out is the fifth track from the album and, while more enjoyable than the majority of tracks on this album, it doesn’t quite seem to fit the mood – while they seem to be trying their hardest to be a grungy band with a lo-fi sound that doesn’t care and just wants to have fun, this track is so polished and poppy that it could have been taken from a 5 Seconds Of Summer record. The following track, Ruining My Pretending, sees the album return to a slow, apathetic pace, and vocalist Cole Becker’s performance on this track after a listen or two begins to grate on the ear. Seventh track Uncool is the second track which has a predominant lyrical hook involving rhyming “cool” with “fool”, which should pretty much speak for itself.
The eighth track, Miley, is a somewhat unexpected ode to Miley Cyrus which refers to her as a “punk rock queen” and, surprisingly is a highlight of the album. Although the theme of the song is probably enough to put a lot of people off, the song itself has one of the more hard-hitting sounds that can be heard on this release. Yet again, however, after this the mood of the album goes stale as following songs D’You Have A Car and Hannah fail to deliver anything that we haven’t already heard on this record.
Thankfully, the final two songs on the album make up for some of what is lost on the majority of tracks here. Penultimate track Silver Bullet is a cool, chilled out track which, once more, offers nothing in terms of originality, but at least makes for pleasant background listening. Closing and title track Drive North is possibly the best track the LP has to offer with its roaring guitars in the instrumental section and Becker’s most convincingly furious vocal performance of the whole album.
In conclusion, however, it speaks volumes that one of SWMRS’ biggest “punk-rock” influences on this record was Miley Cyrus – it shows in the overall tameness of the record. Perhaps if this were a debut, the excuse that they are still figuring it out would have made SWMRS a much more hopeful band than they seem to be at the moment. But the fact is that this is their third LP to date, and with the support of such big names in the industry, surely they could have done a better job figuring it out by now.
For fans of: FIDLAR, Teen Suicide, No Noise
Words by Tom Armstrong
‘Drive North’ by SWMRS is out now on Uncool Records.