By sticking their middle finger up to Los Angeles, SWMRS is telling you to Drive North. FILDAR‘s Zac Carper takes a new approach to producing a rock record by mixing elements of electronic music and low end Hip-Hop. We here at The ‘Burg thought that Drive North was worthy of a track-by-track analysis by our own DJ’s.
The album opens with washed out drums, a catchy surf-guitar hook and a scream that would make even the calmest of millennials want to f—k sh—t up to this anthem based around the enigmatic actor and folk artist Harry Dean. As the screams echo into distance “Harry Dean” continues to build intensity and as momentum builds, lead singer Cole Becker provides us with more screams and lyrics about kicking ass and taking names. It’s only fitting that SWMRS has made this the opening track on DRIVE NORTH seeing as how they have credited the song as the song that was essentially the creation of the sound that would become SWMRS. The original song posted on the group’s soudcloud page is nearly 18 minutes long and in the interview we were able to get with band they shared that the album version is simply just the first movement of the song and they encouraged listeners to go listen to the full versions to get some insights on the band. –DJ DIRTY SNOWBALL
Max Becker hops on vocals for the first time on Drive North with track #2 “BRB”. The beginning of “BRB” is a small psych loop that is pitched up. Can’t really understand what it says, but it is definitely something Zac Carper made. “BRB” feels like a big middle finger. Not really sure whom the middle finger is directed towards, but there is a lot of resentment, angst and revenge within “BRB”. This track is also a chord powerhouse that starts as Max Becker completely by himself to later explode into an emotional tsunami supplied by riveting guitar, crisp percussion and simply not giving a damn anymore. –Tanner The Intern
Miss Yer Kiss
It’s very difficult to describe this track. It has the whistling of Fitz and The Tantrums, the production similar to Hot Chelle Rae, and the very distinct voice of lead singer Cole Becker. It almost echoes the sort of cross-genre blending that Twenty One Pilots has been messing with lately. The drum beat is relaxed and welcoming, Cole does great work controlling his voice and reigning it in for such a chill track and the electronic influences that are sprinkled on the track set a place for this entry at the Top 40/Alternative table. However, something about this track feels lacking. “Miss Yer Kiss” feels like it has potential to be an amazing breakthrough in cross-genre music, yet the production is almost too minimalistic, which makes me feel that the track is missing an important element to tie the gift together. In the opinion of this reviewer, “Miss Yer Kiss” is probably the weakest track of the lineup on the SWMRS debut. That’s not to say it isn’t good. It definitely is nice to listen to. With the exposure that I have had so far with SWMRS, however, it’s definitely a song I’d probably skip over in the car. – Audiophilo Milo
In my mind this song is almost a Grouplove song. The production, the bouncy drums and guitars, even the vocal showing from the other Becker brother, Max, which lends itself to this strongly indie-influenced track, all of it screams those Grouplove-style bands. It’s not a bad thing, though! It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s really nice to listen to. You can bop your head to this, as Max sings sweet pleas to his sweetheart. It’s actually a pretty heartfelt song that would be great to play on this upcoming Valentine’s Day. Max Becker offers a very different tone and feel that is a great break from the talents of his brother, Cole. “Turn Up” suffers a bit from the same problem “Miss Yer Kiss” of feeling like something is lacking. However, the problem doesn’t make itself so apparent in this entry seeing as the indie inspirations behind it lend themselves to using those apparent “lackings” (not even sure if that’s a word) to its advantage. – Audiophilo
Figuring It Out
Chanting can get your point across. In “Figuring It Out”, SWMRS let us know that they can provide a party atmosphere. Drive North is an incredibly diverse album and for myself, “Figuring It Out” is not only the biggest single on Drive North, but the lyrics are unapologetically socially relevant. SWMRS throws around millennial trademarks such as “Thirsty Thursday” and “Wake and Bake Wednesday” (hey, it’s legal in Washington, alright) that create a reliability factor that has been missing for millennials. “Figuring It Out” also provides a frat house style chant which serves as the foundation of the track. “Figuring It Out” is simply a rally cry for millennials trying to sort out their first real world problems. Although “Figuring It Out” is a vague term, a lot of angst and anxiety goes within “Figuring It Out”. . –Tanner The Intern
Ruining My Pretending
SWMRS accomplished two important things with this song, first they showcase their versatility as artists, and second they proved that anthems can be written and performed in a way that doesn’t rely on overdriven guitars. This track is something to sit back and vibe to, a song that reminds you of happy, laid back times with friends. The final chorus of this song epitomizes this feeling, everyone is singing and the instrumentation leaves you wanting to dance along. With lyrics like “There are those who sit and listen, to observe and drink it in. there are those who just can’t taste it, and they skip to the end. Well me I’m just a fool who puts himself in that atmosphere but at least I hear the emotions, at least I feel the emotions” SWMRS are able to create a song that celebrates art and individuality while simultaneously acknowledging that there are people out there who don’t share that same passion in the arts. “Ruining My Pretending” seems to be in reference to those people who are opponents to the arts and can’t understand why their opposition is harmful to the artist trying to convey feelings through different mediums. As the chorus says “It’s just a story, we all know the feeling. You don’t believe that you’re ruining my pretending”. – Bumper Jumper
So I’ve got to be honest. I don’t think I’ve ever really liked “Uncool”. I’m a fan of “Miley” and “Figuring It Out” which is what introduced me to the band in the first place. “Uncool” was the third single SWMRS released and the second song I heard of from them. Listening to it for this review, though, it has great qualities. It’s a good song if you’re looking for awesome headbanging rock to get you pumped. The guitar work is very reminiscent of the bands that were popular in my middle school years, which is great! This track is a great representation of what SWMRS as a group can do with this pedal-to-the-metal, Jimmy Eat World meets We Are The In Crowd track. Cole Becker’s vocal work on this is impressive and showcases the diversity of how he can change his voice between tracks like “Miley” and this one. Personally, I don’t enjoy the track. It’s just not my cup of tea. However, if you want a great example of how sweet the sound of SWMRS can be, this is definitely the track to look at. – Audio Filo Milo
What can I say about this song? Musically it plays with a wide range of dynamics and energy. It starts off as if it were going to be a laid back chill tune, then the chorus comes and knocks you off your feet! The energy of this song is powerful yet contemplative, one minute you will be thinking about the lyrics and how applicable they are to the song’s namesake Miley Cyrus. Lyrically it follows the album’s theme of individuality with some very powerful imagery. This song refers to Miley as “Sisyphus eating in a corporate scene”, Sisyphus is from Greek mythology and refers to the man cursed by Zeus to push a boulder up a mountain for eternity. The song repeats the line “Miley you’re a punk rock queen” a few times, referring not to Cyrus’ music itself but rather the personality of punk rock and the idea of individual rebellion. SWMRS has taken someone who was the focus of a lot of criticism and celebrated their individuality. This song was an instant favorite of mine and there really isn’t anything more I can say besides that I love the song and the message being portrayed is an important one.
– Bumper Jumper
Do you have a car
The intro bass and drumline to this song certainly shows the pop-punk roots on the band and in that sense this song in my opinion is the closest thing to a pop-punk song. However its songs dynamics and lyrics that will make you fall in love with this song. The song uses the tried and true stop start loud quiet sound that bands like The Pixies and Nirvana brought to the forefront of rock in the late 80s and early 90s. There are a few moments during the song where everything breaks down and the gravelly voice of Cole Becker grabs your heart strings as he calls out almost in a sense of desperation “Do You Have a Car!”. And when the guitar comes back into the mix it devastates and destroys. Over all This song is one of my favorite on the album and over the last week I’ve found myself going back for more. All I can is you got me SWMRS…you got me.
–DJ DIRTY SNOWBALL
“Math class kills me, weed makes me silly, I like good music, don’t you want to love me at all?”
This ballad is refreshing to hear. Zac Carper mixes a mixture of low end and hip-hop style production on this bare track. The simplicity of this track is astounding and you feel a sense of nostalgia and playfulness because of the Fisher toy-style keyboard. Again, the bare production is phenomenal. There is a childlike atmosphere adds a certain dreariness that feels unsettling. “Hannah” is referenced as being crazy and “coo-coo bananas”. Is this a symbol for transitioning from youth to adulthood? Probably.
–Tanner The Intern
Individuality seems to be a running theme in this album and “Silver Bullet” showcases this idea with lyrics about rejecting normalcy. This song takes the idea of monsters and turns it into a positive thing, where being a monster isn’t a bad thing but rather a sign of your individuality, and taking away that monster would be to take away what makes someone unique. Silver bullets being associated with the killing of monsters (specifically “Werewolf youth”) and the lyrics “we don’t need your silver bullet, we don’t need your hard attempt to turn us to somebody else” makea clear statement that SWMRS is trying to encourage individuality. Musically this song utilizes the bass guitar as the driving force of the instruments by playing with the wide range available to the bass. The drums also play a key role in this song, specifically the second verse where they are the driving instrumental force, because the drummer is the only one play along to the vocals. This sets up an impactful return of the whole band that brings. This is a fun rockin’ song with energy that would make this a very good song to hear in a live set.
– Bumper Jumper
DRIVE NORTH is not just the title of this album, it’s not even just a song. It’s a statement, a belief, and its part of the bands spirit and presence. Being from Oakland the band has been grouped in with the LA bands. Many times it’s a scene that bands move to with hopes that they may get signed to a big label and often times the LA scene is viewed as the epitome of cool. It’s also a scene that the band has been more than vocal about hating as they are striving to be the Epitome of “Uncool”. This song and this album are a rally cry to the youth of America to be proud of where they’re from and to love it and to stand out and say F—k LA. Equally as important this song serves as the exclamation point on the statement of DRIVE NORTH! The song its self is an anthem that highlights and shows why this bands take on music is so fresh and new. The song is perhaps the most punk song on the album in the sense that the entire song takes elements and lessons from punks past and incorporates some new elements of other genres such as Low-end hip hop. As the song proudly professes “I Hate Los Angeles!” you hear backing Chants of “Hate LA!”. As a fan punk music I almost instantly recognized the eerie similarity to the “EMI” chants at the end of ‘EMI” by the Sex Pistols. Now Don’t be mistaken I am not accusing SWMRS of ripping the Pistols off, if anything I see it as a tipping of the hat to the people who helped pave the way for bands mike them. Just as the songs intensity reaches a peak they choose to end the song in a very nontraditional way. Instead of ending the song with the traditional fade out or unresolved power chord they chose to let both the song and the album end in an eruption of Anarchy putting the perfect ending statement to an album that is a statement in its own right.
–DJ DIRTY SNOWBALL
Featured image credit: Google, labeled for reuse