Choke Up

Black Coffee, Bad Habits

Written by: TL on 05/02/2015 19:11:33

With a name like Choke Up, it probably shouldn't be surprising that this Boston quartet's debut album "Black Coffee, Bad Habits" is emo in a very raw and confrontational way - or emo-punk to be more precise, of the kind that tries to be as throat-scrapingly desperate right off the bat that more well-adjusted listeners will instantly turn back, while those that are junkies for that kind of urgency come flocking straight away to see what's up. For brief moments, there's clean-ish vocals that sound like an Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra) or Kyle Soto (Seahaven) singing with a sort of practised, drawling resignation, yet for most of the time you get throat-scraping howls, sort of like those of Captain, We're Sinking or Brand New, only Choke Up overall sound more like those bands lit on fire and thrown down the stairs. The melody-to-ruckus ratio is tilted in the latter's favour, to the point where some might rather compare the group to hardcore bands, but the mood is still primarily sentimental and introspective rather than self-righteous.

Regardless, the "thrown down the stairs" description should be a pretty good one if you're looking for raw energy, which "Black Coffee, Bad Habits" has in spades, less so if you're also looking for impressive songwriting. Already within the first four tracks you get "Wildflower", which starts out with a clean guitar melody that at least hints at a sense of purpose, then "My Oh My" and "Crosses", which both rage on ahead generically with rumbling bass and basic punk chords, and then "Thicket And Vine", which slows to mid-tempo and delivers an actual riff, feeling all the more wholesome for it. This early sample indicates that Choke Up have cooked up a compelling sound, yet the way they've puzzled their ideas together remains somewhat rudimentary at this point, as much of the remaining ten tracks fills the gaps between each interesting bit with by-the-books punk rock noise, which may lend the lyrics power in the live-setting, yet feels a bit too simple to really compliment the manic lines when taken in via your headphones.

A song like "KC" is a pretty good example of how the band can stumble upon a cool sequence of things, taking what is a nicely changed up standard track for the record, and elevating it already after a minute with a surprisingly tranquil gang-vocal part - one you can easily imagine the band singing in unison with their crowd, standing back from their microphones in a grimey basement venue - which then develops into a hypnotic Jimmy Eat World-like outro. And later on, at the end of the album, "Dry Out" sounds like a wholly different band, closing the release of with a distinctly mellow, emo-country style. Songs like these make you feel like Choke Up have some pretty novel ideas to go along with their rampant frustrations, while you simultaneously have to wonder why they've been made to appear so isolated, like islands in a sea of comparatively bland "play chords fast and shout"-type of stuff. Bits like that would do wonders if integrated more cleverly in contrast with the band's promising melodious doodles and nuances, yet for the moment, that's a bit of the work the band still has cut out for them, even if their captivating, in-your-face energy is sure to turn some heads already with this debut.

Download: Wildflower, KC, Thicket And Vine
For The Fans Of: Captain, We're Sinking; Apologies, I Have None; Our Time Down Here; Crime In Stereo
Listen: facebook.com/chokeupma

Release date 03.01.2015
Black Numbers

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