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Album Review: Drive North by SWMRS

Bay Area quartet SWMRS release their debut album Drive North on 12th February through their own label Uncool Records. The band officially formed in early 2015, but their roots stretch back for years—to when Cole (Becker), and his childhood friend, Joey Armstrong (drums) formed Emily’s Army at 8 years old. They didn’t know how to play their instruments, but they’d seen School of Rock, and tabbed Cole’s brother Max to sing and play bass.

Before graduating high school, the band had already released two full-length albums and a handful of EP’s. They’d toured the world, and shared stages with Pennywise, Rise Against, and Soundgarden. The band then recruited their friend Sebastian Mueller to play bass and Max Becker switched to lead guitar, and with a change of sound, style and focus, SWMRS was born.

Opener ‘Harry Dean’ has a frenzied punk energy, getting the album off to a storming a rousing start before the pop sensibilities and charm of ‘BRB’ hints that SWMRS might be onto something special. ‘BRB’ acts as an early highpoint that unfortunately the album doesn’t reach again and any thoughts that Drive North was going to be special are dismissed by the turgid and heavily formulated ‘Miss Yer Kiss’ and ‘Turn Up’. It’s at this point that the bands abbreviated name and text speak song titles begin to worry you and point towards a band of Gym Class Heroes ilk.

Fortunately Drive North doesn’t hit these pits again. Recovery is set in motion with some excellent guitar parts in ‘Figuring It Out’, even though it’s a pretty lacklustre pop rock track there’s a charm and potential that gives hope. While ‘Ruining My Pretending’ is turgid and instantly forgettable there’s a glimmer of potential that comes close to be realised on ‘Uncool’. On ‘Uncool’ there’s a punk swagger and when the track explodes it’s a brilliant chaotic release of energy. Both ‘Miley’ and ‘Do You Have A Car’ are formidable punk rock tracks, that point towards the band’s strength in creating infectious and sneering punk rock.

To strengthen that thought, you have the simply awful ‘Hannah’ that defies logic – how it made the album is anybody’s guess. Compare that to the pounding ‘Silver Bullet’ and excellent closer ‘Drive North’ you have to question why the band have this pop streak. Is it a joke? You get the feeling that it might be, unfortunately it detracts from what otherwise would be a pretty good debut. When SWMRS are on form they’re pretty excellent, there are just too many stinkers on Drive North.

AD Rating: 5.75/10

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