SWMRS’ ‘Berkeley’s On Fire’ Is the Punk Rallying Cry of a New Generation

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Photo: Phoebe Fox 

Is punk dead? Has it been revived by the corporate enigma as a clever catch-all term to marketed towards a cultural zeitgeist who likely needs authentic punk more than ever? Is that guy with the Black Flag shirt he got from Hot Topic punk? Whatever your opinions on what is and is not punk, one thing is for certain: SWMRS is the bleeding heart of a new generation with a message that will not be ignored.

Comprised of brothers Cole and Max Becker, Joey Armstrong, and Seb Mueller, SWMRS spent their formative years grinding their native Oakland, CA, rock scene and beyond. Under a myriad of band names, from Emily’s Army to their present-day incarnation as SWMRS, the Oakland quartet has never felt more assured in their vision and intent than in their arresting sophomore album, Berkeley’s On Fire. Inspired by Cole Becker’s experience of witnessing the 2017 Berkeley protests first-hand, Berkeley’s On Fire is by all accounts a protest album, but likely not the one you would expect.

What came from witnessing the beginning of the protests first-hand was not a spirited commentary on the riot itself but the media portrayal of the events and how we as a society disseminate and absorb information. The title track sets the stage with a thunderous opening, “Berkeley’s on fire/ Your TV lies/ We’ll be alright,” decries SWMRS, mockingly criticizing the media’s portrayal. Questioning the narratives of widely accepted norms has long existed as a staple of any great work of punk, and it is a sentiment and energy SWMRS keeps up throughout an impressive 10-track run.

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Photo: Betawave Media Group

What is most impressive from this excellent sophomore effort is found not in any singular moment; it is found in the depth of range the Oakland quartet displays. Tracks like “Hellboy” and the previously released “Trashbag Baby” demonstrate SWMRS’ penchant and prowess for skating through electrifying spells of guitar-driven rock. 

Meanwhile somber meditations like “April In Houston” and Bad Allergies” demonstrate SWMRS as so much more than a band that can exquisitely play their respective instruments at a breakneck pace. Taken altogether, Berkeley’s On Fire paints the portrait of a band ready to become the architects of a new wave of punk with their limitless technicality, razor-sharp songwriting, and emotional acuity.

Listen to Berkeley’s On Fire below and catch the Oakland punk outfit live as they set on a monumental European and North American tour. 

Plus, super fans can look forward to our upcoming “All Eyes On” performance and interview with the band coming soon.

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