SMOKE OR FIRE: Above the City: CD

Oct 23, 2007

There’s a perishability quotient involved with gruff, melodic, socially conscious punk. Many bands have found and explored the hallmarks: the understated poetics of Leatherface, the soaring jet fighters high in the sky guitars of Hot Water Music, the riot of anthems of Strike Anywhere, the hidden complexity presented through mugs of beer of the Tim Version, the playful seriousness of The Grabass Charlestons. There’s actually a pool of bands that stand comfortably in those waters, and although very good, don’t warrant extra spins. At first, I was just okay with Smoke or Fire. The vocals seemed just a hair too processed. Several of the songs blended together. But then I started to realize that the CD wasn’t going out of rotation. And then—here’s when I know a band’s got me, because I listen to so much music on a continual basis—I was humming one of their lines while shampooing in the shower. Ever since the first couple of listens, I’ve taken this CD on trips through three states, it works well both in traffic jams and wide open spaces, and all the little bits that first bothered me have disappeared. They remind me of a mix between Avail and early Explosion: catchy, sincere, and a full body experience (head, chest, and legs are all affected), and that’s pretty darn good for a debut.

 –todd (Fat)