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September 2019
Album review

‘Berkeley’s On Fire’ is SWMRS supercharged: music that matters, but isn't afraid to have fun

Fizzing with ambition and energy.
Label: Fueled By Ramen
Released: 15th February 2019
Rating: ★★★★★
‘Berkeley’s On Fire’ is SWMRS supercharged: music that matters, but isn't afraid to have fun
Published: 5:10 pm, February 14, 2019Words: Stephen Ackroyd.

Treading a thin line isn’t easy. It takes practice to find balance, not swaying too far to one side or the other before crashing to the floor.

But practice - that’s one thing SWMRS have definitely done. 2016’s ‘Drive North’ was a barnstormer of an album that drove them to new heights. Signing with scene-stealers Fueled By Ramen felt like confirmation of a band ready to live up to their promise.

Never really going away, the band honed their craft further on the road, moving up the bills and building a world around them as they went. Three years on, they’re ready to cash in all that hard-earned experience, and boy does it show.

‘Berkeley’s On Fire’ is SWMRS supercharged, and yet still perfectly poised to cross the great divide. ‘Lose Lose Lose’ breaks out the moves, while ‘Too Much Coffee’ shuffles to a killer melody. Fizzing with ambition and energy, it’s a record raucous enough to have a good time, but not so violently combative it pushes the world away.

What really stands out, though, is the brightness. ‘Berkeley’s On Fire’ is a picture painted in strong, primary colours. Direct but never simplistic, even in its bittersweet moments, it’s a record with an underlining sense of hope. It’s never written in such explicit terms - at times, like on ‘Lonely Ghosts’ and its bemoaning of the modern condition, it even feels to sit against the lyrical content - but it’s there. In a time where everything feels to be falling apart, there’s a quiet, unspoken confidence that perhaps things could get better in the end.

Rallying against the world around it, but with hope in its heart, ‘Berkeley’s On Fire’ isn’t so much a spark that starts a fire as a personal pledge. Music that matters, but that’s not afraid to have fun along the way, it’s proof that SWMRS have found that perfect line to tread.

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