Smoke Or Fire - Above The City (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Smoke Or Fire

Above The City (2005)

Fat Wreck Chords

No, it's not like I only receive promos from a few labels out there, but it's just that I have to confess that really great music is often to be found on the same labels over and over again. I'm aware that a lot of youngsters these days consider the label redundant, but you've got to check this new signing by Fat Wreck, Smoke Or Fire, another new revelation from Virginia that previously had an EP, Workers Union, on Iodine Records. The band was originally formed in Boston in 1998 as Jericho, but moved to Richmond and were forced to change their name because of another band from Australia with the same name, a 1970's-era Christian rock band that is now defunct, threatening to sue them. This album, their first full-length, was co-produced by Fat Mike, quite a reference to get a band going.

You get a nice mixture here of a high-geared Lawrence Arms/Against Me! rock-nonchalance mixed with a certain degree of melodic post-hardcore eagerness somewhere in line with the now-defunct Cadillac Blindside (f.e. in "Filter" and "Goodbye To Boston"). Add to all this a much faster-paced approach of things and you have Smoke Or Fire. All through the album the drums have that outstanding power and articulate tapping punch that remind me of the high-volume recorded drummings in Ten Foot Pole's old Rev album. Its dominant presence adds to create this outstanding and highly uplifting music, filled with old-fashioned skate punk hooks and yet sometimes also referring to more hardcore-minded bands like Avail, f.e. in opening song "California's Burning."

Great, somewhat gruffy, and always showing a lot of intense passion are the vocals that lift this music to even higher standards. And although I'm not the biggest Hot Water Music fan, I guess the band should be mentioned as another one that is similar sounding, and that has a lot to do with these passionate vocals maybe. But to me Smoke Or Fire outclasses them for the much catchier sound and the quick passing 2-minute-average songs. Only the semi-acoustic "Cryin' Shame," in true Against Me! style, is responsible for a bit of a pace drop.

To top it off, these guys write some pretty clever socially-concious lyrics, including a rant against the US warmarchine in "Culture As Given." Highly recommended to anyone who loves a punching sincere punk rock album!