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Music Review: Smoke Or Fire – This Sinking Ship

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Is it just me or are all the bands on Fat Wreck Chords starting to sound the same?

The newest release from Smoke Or Fire, This Sinking Ship, sounds very much like other records I’ve reviewed for Fat Mike. It isn’t that This Sinking Ship is a bad album. Jeremy’s guitar chops are loud and bone crunching, Ken keeps a steady pace with his bass, new drummer Dave Atchison slams out a violent beat, and Joe rants convincingly about the state of the world. It just sounds the same as latter day NoFX, Against Me, and other groups in Mike’s stable.

Smoke Or Fire recreates that clean, highly produced punk that NoFX has turned to and I’ve got to say, it’s getting a little boring. While all the songs on That Sinking Ship are well played, they don’t have any character and no life of their own. They’re just slickly put together songs with no anima.

Maybe it’s just the geezer punk in me that really wants to hear drums that sound like cardboard boxes and guitars played through kicked-in amps. The production was never the thing about punk. It was about the anarchy, the wildness, and the unpredictability of letting yourself loose and slamming into your date while dancing. Somehow, it feels like This Sinking Ship is punk on Ritalin: controlled, well behaved, and nearly comatose.

Hopefully, their live shows are much wilder. If anything, This Sinking Ship has inspired me to find out, but as far as recorded music is concerned, it is far too self-contained to merit a second listen by my acid-drenched brain. That’s too bad because I appreciate how punk has survived over the years, even if it has become a commercially viable product.  

So many modern groups have carved out creative niches in music because of punk, including the highly industrial Swans, the experimental rock of Thurston Moore and Sonic Youth, the entire grrrl rock movement of the eighties and nineties, pseudo-industrialists Interpol, and a whole slate of emo bands. So when I listen to something as staid as This Sinking Ship, I have to wonder, “What happened?”

If the highly crafted production values of This Sinking Ship drives the punk movement these days, then more power to it; but Fat Mike and his fellow label-meisters would do all of us with a long history of punk behind us a huge favor by releasing some in-your-face, screw-everything-and-everyone music that slaps us with its freshness and makes us want to slam dance with our wives and children.

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About Larry

  • Micah

    I thought this was supposed to be a review of the album, not someone bitching about the state of punk rock? If you’re going to review the album review the album, don’t compare it to other fat bands. I’ve heard this album and completely love it. How can you say this sounds like NOFX and Against Me!? It sounds nothing like either of those bands, Smoke or Fire has a unique, accurate sound that always seems to get stuck in my occipital lobe. For anyone who reads this, I’ll say its a Quality, worthwhile album.

    I just reviewed the record more than this other joke did.

    P.S. “Larry”, If you want some in your face Screw-Everything punk try Western Addiction. Oh but wait, they’re on Fatwreck so they have to sound just like Smoke or Fire, right?

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