Three years after dropping the excellent This Sinking Ship, Smoke or Fire is finally serving up new tunes for the masses. This week alone sees two new releases: Wasted Potential, an acoustic split between frontman Joe McMahon and the Lawrence Arms’ Brendan Kelly, and Prehistoric Knife Fight, a two-song seven-inch and hopefully a preview of what to expect when the band’s third full-length finally drops.
There is one thing wrong with Knife Fight: It’s not nearly long enough to satiate any fan’s appetite. Which is probably the point; while the band has toured pretty consistently since This Sinking Ship dropped, three years is a long-ass time in punk rock to wait for a follow-up. Knife Fight should remind plenty of listeners that SoF dishes out high quality punk rock that meets somewhere between Lawrence Arms’ drunk-punk anthems and Avail’s Southern political awareness.
It almost doesn’t matter which side of the record one chooses to put on first. Both tunes are good. As the opener, “Speak Easy” explodes right away with twin guitars and pounding drums. The production is slightly less glossy than on Ship – not that the band’s sophomore album was overproduced or anything – while still maintaining a clarity lacking from full-length debut Above the City.
“Modesty” could be called the more introspective of the two songs, but only because it slowly builds into a rocker. Lyrically, it’s in keeping with a lot of Smoke or Fire’s songs about getting stuck in a rut – “So the days turn into years / Quick fix has become a career” goes one memorable bit. Speaking of quick fixes, Prehistoric Knife Fight is only four-and-a-half minutes long, but I’m gonna have to find a way to make it last until LP #3 comes out. Welcome back, guys.