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Smoke Or Fire - Above The City

  by Alex Halls

published: 16 / 3 / 2005

Smoke Or Fire - Above The City
Label: Fat Wreck
Format: CD


Thoughtful, but sadly short mini-debut album from Boston act Smoke or Fire, which leaves it listener wanting more, not out of just them, but also "punk in general"

Smoke Or Fire came together in Boston, New England in 1998 and released 'When The Battery Dies' as a nine track EP in 2000 on Gunboat Records. Moving in 2002 to Richmond, Virginia to concentrate on music without the expectations of those living in the city where the famous Harvard University is located and where living costs are high, the move south is represented on the album, 'Above The City', and in particular on 'Goodbye To Boston' where the obvious frustrations of living in such a place torment day after day. The band was later renamed from its original Jericho to its present name after an Australian Christian-rock band of the same name threatened to bring the law into the equation: perhaps not the liturgy one might have expected. Now signed to Fat Wreck Chords, which speaks volumes, the band consists of; Ken Gurley (bass); Joe McMahon (guitar, vocals); Jeremy Cochran (guitar); and Nick Maggiore (drums). At times sounding heavily like the UK’s own Vanilla Pod, a positive one must add, Smoke Or Fire start poorly in 'California’s Burning' but this soon turns out to be an aberration on 'Above The City' as the song recovers immediately to leave the album free to impress. Similar to Florida’s Hot Water Music but more aggressively punk than the post-hardcore label that people have attempted to attach to Smoke Or Fire’s music, 'Above The City' coalesces many an energetic track with the rare slower song (the acoustic 'Cryin’ Shame') and therefore reenergises and calms all in one effort. Introducing a number of thoughtful themes, such as the reasons behind narcotic use and the irony of the fight against drug abuse in 'Cops And Drugs', the effects of capitalism through a consumer state and, in 'Loving, Self-loathing', feelings of confusion, Smoke Or Fire preserve the anarchy of punk in 'Filter'. The lyrics are positively poignant throughout the album: often intoxicating as a result of the animated guitaring and drumming that blesses the tracks one by one. There is no substitute for passion and emotion: this band displays these qualities in abundance. Disappointingly, given the quality of the record, is the short running time (24 minutes) which gives the impression that the cohesive 12-track album comes and goes, yet, if you look past the brevity, 'Above The City' leaves the listener feeling content; absorbed; exhilarated; as the music rolls out of the stereo and the anticipation of each new song leaves the palms sweaty. The album makes everything available to both the punk and hardcore listener, allowing them to empathise with the lyrical content and get pleasure from the communicable music. 'Above The City' leaves you wanting more, not just from Smoke Or Fire but from punk in general. Fat Wreck certainly knows how to choose them and, with Smoke Or Fire, the label’s reputation for punk excellence continues.

Track Listing:-
1 Califonia's Burning
2 Filter
3 Cops and Drugs
4 Goodbye to Boston
5 Culture as Given
6 Delawhere
7 Loving, Self-Loathing
8 Fire Escapes
9 Southpaw
10 The Hard Way
11 Cryin' Shame
12 Point Break

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