Oakland band SWMRS are the pioneers of a fresh brand of punk, equipped with bleeding guitar riffs and vibrating drumbeats their debut is one that demands attention. Drive North is a journey through the minds of four best friends, who’re using their teenage angst to create anthems encompassing the modern day confusion of growing up.
Harry Dean opens with a rowdy riff before setting fire to the drums and lead singer Cole Becker welcomes you with a raucous sneer. Full of the bleak reality that is our miniscule existence in this world, SWMRS spirited attitude radiates from the track, reminding us all that we actually have the power to do whatever the hell we want in our lives. Musically, subsequent track BRB follows a similar strut. Taking layers of distorted sound that throbs before exploding into a frantic rhythmic rhythm to which Becker yelps, “you don’t know what I need and I don’t need this” before the vigorous tune continues on.
Although often subtly disguised by such an intense arrangement, there’s actually an incredible level of song writing at work throughout Drive North. From the punk poem for bad-ass pop star Miley Cyrus in Miley to the bursting reality of non conformity in Figuring It Out and Silver Bullet. And of course, the lyrical masterpiece that is Ruining My Pretending, an aggressive anthem taking a stab at getting lost growing up. Using the chime of a xylophone and a simple beat to drive home the idea that succumbing to a mediocre adult like existence is the death of your imagination and pure emotions. The boys lay it all out there chanting, “it’s just a story, we all know the feeling, you don’t believe it” / “you’re ruining my pretending” to each other, as the drums take a frantic turn and voices turn to shouts before the track suddenly stops – giving you a moment to truly process the depth of the tune.
To close out such an imperative album, title track Drive North is a punk rite of passage, it’s the hometown homage. With it’s pulsing anger and “I hate Los Angeles” chant it takes some punchy drums and layers it with frantic riffs, making it all too easy to loop back and go through the motions all over again. As an album Drive North is a striking coming of age, post angst collection of deep and relatable tracks that do well to remind you you’re not the only one trying to break the societal mould.