Smoke Or Fire
Above The City



by Julio Babilonia USER (16 Reviews)
September 10th, 2008 | 8 replies

Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Above The City succeeds in the two main things a debut is suppose to do, provide a good enjoyable listen, and keep the listener interested in the band and waiting for more.

In a genre with a growing amount of great bands there are some that might get lost and be overlooked; Smoke Or Fire is one of these bands. From the pop-punk/punk fort Fat Wreck Chords, Smoke Or Fire has been flying under the radar. Having to compete with bands like Rise Against, Strung Out, The Lawrence Arms, NOFX, etc is not easy, but they have slowly managed to get recognition by creating quality punk anthems. Above The City is a classic solid debut album like the debuts of the bands I previously mentioned and others from the family.

What does this album sounds like? A good way of describing it would be to take some from The Loved Ones, some from Strike Anywhere, and mix it with influence from Hot Water Music. Above The City provides the listener with a high amount of catchiness, good melodic riffs, and a solid yet unimpressive beats. A song that pretty much represents what the album is about is California’s Burning.

Listening to this album can be frustrating at first because one can’t help but notice how very good it is, but it could have been so much better. It’s like one of those dreams where you are running towards a door and every time it looks like you are going to finally grab the knob it moves away. Above The City is good and running, but doesn’t seem to be able to grab the doorknob, and every time it feels like it will, it falls short. Eventually though, it can be appreciated for what it is, a very good debut from a band just starting to realize their potential.

When it comes to musicianship there is nothing really mind-blowing about this album. The band utilizes great consistent power chords and melodic riffs, and standard drumbeats that don’t bring anything worth mentioning to the table. The big standouts of the album are the vocal performance and variety. The vocalist, Joe McMahon, gives an inspired passionate performance that captures the listener. What for other bands could have been a mediocre song, Joe converts into a true anthem, utilizing shouting vocals as his trademark. When it comes to the variety Above The City delivers in multiple facets, from catchy sing-a-longs like The Hard Way to more hardcore tunes like California’s Burning.

In the end, Above The City succeeds in the two main things a debut is suppose to do, provide a good enjoyable listen, and keep the listener interested in the band and waiting for more. A very consistent effort that fails in some lacking of originality and in not quite being as good as it could have been. Smoke Or Fire shows promise and potential, and will hopefully become one of the big names of pop-punk in the future.

Recommended Tracks:
The Hard Way
California’s Burning

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user ratings (17)

Comments:Add a Comment 
September 11th 2008


great review, although you're not quite right about this being their debut. they did a bunch of EPs under the name Jericho, and later Jericho RVA (the only one of which is still available being "Workers' Union" EP). same band, same members, just a different name, and definitely worth checking out if you like this.

i haven't listened to this in a while, but i'm thinking i'll give it a spin on the way to town tomorrow, it's a cracking album, even if i do prefer "this sinking ship" by just a little.

oh btw man, just seen banner pilot's "pass the poison" in your recent reviews bit, i've just reviewed their new one "resignation day," you should definitely give that a spin, it's a great album.

September 11th 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

I love you man. I haven't seen u around much lately.

I've been trying to advertise Banner Pilot in the site, good to have some help. Pass The Poison and Resignation Day are both awesome, I even asked for someone to review Resignation Day in the Community Forum.

Yeah I knew about Jericho, although not a lot and haven't heard any of their EP's. This would count as their first full-length though. I also like "This Sinking Ship" more than this one.

September 11th 2008


This sounds like something I might like, very good review.

September 11th 2008


i've been around a bit, been reviewing a lot more lately. although in the last week or so, most of my time spent online has been taken up trying to find cheap flights to florida for The Fest... and i *THINK* i might just be able to afford it, which is pretty awesome! you going?

oh and as for banner pilot, i'll root around online and try to find some mp3s to attach to their profile and maybe suggest them for a listening party?

September 11th 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

I contacted them on myspace and told them about the site and the listening parties at the start of the year. They answered telling me they were going to put up some mp3's so i could use them, but they never did.

What they did do however was thanking me for trying to get them recognize and for my review and sent me a free band shirt wich actually happens to be the one I'm wearing now. They are cool guys.

If you don't mind I'm going to contact them again to link them to your review so they can see it.

Edit: Oh and I can't travel anywhere right now, I'm going to Europe in a college trip in summer and it is 6000$ and half of that I have to pay from my own pocket so yeah...This Message Edited On 09.11.08

September 11th 2008


Decent review, disliked the dream paragraph to describe the bands ability to try and make a good album.
The hardest thing for Smoke or Fire is that they're on fat wreck, they don't break any molds from the distinct label's sound that has been compiled over the years.
When i bought this record a couple years ago it had a pretty heavy rotation in my album listens for about 3 months, now its maybe a few times every couple months.
I don't think the band will become that popular in future albums if 'the sinking ship'-their latest release shows any indication of whats to come; they're lyrical gonna run out of simple plan esk' dribble to sing about before smoke or fire's albums find an audience.

September 11th 2008


Its cool Cesar, I was gonna contact them anyway, i generally tend to let bands/labels know when i review their records (if they're not very well known), because it gives them more to draw from for press cuttings etc. to promote the album. i'll ask again about the mp3s for listening parties too when i drop them an email.

and yeah i know what u mean about the expense of travelling, it's gonna cost me the best part of £700 (i think that's about $1300 at the current exchange rate) to get to the fest, and that's just a long weekend! it'll be worth it though.

oh, and Capricious, where do you get the idea that SOF are simple plan-esque? yeah admittely they stick mostly to the whole "getting out of this shit town" school of lyrics, but nowhere near as cheesy as simple plan.

March 21st 2018


bump from the grave because i'm jamming this.

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