Smoke or Fire, This Week’s #APCNewToMe Band


This week’s #APCNewToMe band was recommended by Jeremy L. Morrison, one of my co-hosts on the Acid Pop Cult podcast. We often pick on Jeremy because of his NOFX love, and frequent mentions of them on the show, which really doesn’t even happen all that often, but don’t tell him that. I’m just as guilty of being a fanboy when it comes to pimping Todd Snider’s work on the show. We’ve both jokingly declared bans on mentioning either of them when the mics are live. Anyway, he recommended that I check out Fat Wreck Chords recording artist Smoke or Fire.

True to the spirit of this page, I had never heard of Smoke or Fire before his recommendation. Also true to the spirit of this page, I’m only writing about them because I have found at least a few songs I’ll stick into my personal rotation.

At first, admittedly, I gave them a 30-second listen on Spotify and stopped it. All I heard in that 30 seconds were guitar chords whose sound leaned way too far toward the treble knob than I typically prefer, and a vocalist whose voice was a little whiny even though it seemed like he was trying to convey some kind of anger. That 30 seconds just didn’t work for me.

I pushed it aside for a time when I was more inclined to take the time to really listen to something that didn’t immediately reach out and grab me by the balls. I like to give things a fair shot before I dismiss them entirely. Most people don’t seem to have this kind of patience, which is why most people, miss out on a lot of good music.

When I finally sat down, and just let Smoke or Fire play for a while, I found I was able to appreciate more of it than I originally thought after that initial 30 seconds.

Photo from the Fat Wreck Chords website, where it is attributed to The Fest, 2006 (Photo: Brian Kelleher,

Photo from the Fat Wreck Chords website, where it is attributed to The Fest, 2006 (Photo: Brian Kelleher,

I explored Smoke or Fire on Spotify.

Spotify has two albums by Smoke or Fire available for listening at the moment, 2010’s “The Speakeasy”, and 2007’s “The Sinking Ship.” I pushed play at the top of one, and let it rip through both just so i can say I gave them a fair shake, and I’m kind of glad I did.

As I listened through “The Speakeasy”, I thought to myself, “Hey, at least the vocalist isn’t going out of his way to sing with that weird accent a lot of others of the genre do. That’s something.”

Then the song 1968 played, and managed to actually get my attention. This song has a little bit of drive behind it, and if I had taken the time to listen to the lyrics, I’ll bet it even had a message of some kind in there. The music was entertaining enough on this track, that I didn’t feel compelled to analyze the lyrics.


Then I zoned back out for a while, and tuned the music out while I worked on a project, which is often how I approach listening to new music because I respect things that cut through my concentration and make me wonder what it is, or what the song is called. When the tracks from “The Sinking Ship” began playing, it did just that.

“The Sinking Ship” sounded like the harder album to me, and the songs on there drew me in unlike “The Speakeasy” did.

Of course, as I always say, just because I like something doesn’t mean it’s great, and just because I might not like something, doesn’t mean it sucks.

What Separates Us All is the first track on “The Sinking Ship”, and the opening riff is an attention getter, and was strong enough to make me listen to the entire song.

I’ll Be Gone is another one that grabbed me right off the bat, and drew me in for a closer listen. Any song where the line, “It doesn’t mean shit to me,” is A-OK in my book. Hell most of the redneck, hillbilly, headbanging bands I listen to probably would have just said, “It don’t mean shit to me,” and left it at that. I appreciate the effort to be somewhat correct.

It was kind of nice to listen to a band with a vocalist who actually tries to sing for a change. I’m so accustomed to growlers, screamers, or folksy crooners, that vocals like those of Smoke or Fire are a nice change of pace once I adapted to it.

My only knock against Smoke or Fire is the same knock I have against a lot of other bands of the genre, and that’s songs start out great, they’ve got a killer riff, a nice heavy groove, and then it pauses for a melodic vocal hook that just fucks up the flow of the song for me. Their song Life Imitating Art is a good example of what I’m talking about. I find it kind of jarring, I’m not smart enough to handle such dynamic changes in a song.


Smoke or Fire overcomes that issue more than others I’ve heard.

The big problem now is Smoke or Fire might or might not even be a band any more.

Reading their story on Fat Wreck Chords, it sounds like they were about to call it quits after “The Sinking Ship”, but were lured back to record the follow-up “The Speakeasy.” It doesn’t appear as though they have put anything out since 2010. They apparently did some touring in March 2013, and posts announcing those tour dates are the last posts to go up on their Facebook page.

So again, I’m too late to the party it seems.

Whatever the case, they are new to me, and that’s all that is required for the #APCNewToMe feature here at Acid Pop Cult.

You can follow along with #APCNewToMe with the ongoing Spotify Playlist featuring songs from the artists we cover this year.

Smoke or Fire at Fat Wreck Chords

Smoke or Fire on Facebook

Smoke or Fire Wiki

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