For a riff-loving guitarist like me, having Choke on as background music is like casually eating a bag of mixed candy - every now and then you'll stumble across something amazing and sweet, and just love it. For a struggling songwriter like me, actively listening to Choke is like getting a lapdance - it's oh so good, but you know it's at a level you can never reach. In each and every song, the band throws in a gazillion riffs and a whole bunch of pace-changes, keeping the listener at his toes at all times. Nowadays it's all the rage to invent new "-core" genres, and I'd like to dub Choke "jazz-core", because in writing and structure, that's what the band coms closest to, with their ingenious guitarwork and spastic signature switches.
The band is a foursome from Canada, and they formed in 1994. This albums is their sixth release (if you include their split CD with Canadian Layaway Plan as well as Swedes Adhesive and Astream), and their fourth on Smallman Records. Although the band has maintained their trademark sound, there's clear evidence that the band has evolved, in musical composition but more notably in vocal arrangements. All the members except the drummer share the vocal duties, making the layers of vocal harmonies almost as notable as those of the guitars. The lead vocalist has an interesting nasal voice, that takes some getting used to but in the end suits the music perfectly, delivering strong lyrics - metaphoric without being wordy.
Song-wise, there are a few real gems here; the strong opening track "Far From True"; the melodic, downbeat "Fallout Leader"; the swing-beat number "Signing Off"; the obvious "single hit" (if a record of this kind has one) "Every Word". They're all perfect examples of Choke's great qualities - they're sense of musical interaction, their passion, their tightness as a band. The creativity and passion is all evidence that this is a band who loves to do what they do.
With all this said, Choke may scare off many listeners at the first listen. The music isn't very 'easy-listening', as you get exposed to lots of breakneck speed time signature changes, and quirky riffage. They're certainly an acquired taste because of this - there's nothing bland about them, and basically they sound like no other band. That may work in their disadvantage. Also, at times it seems like they lose themselves in their jungle of intricateness, and often times they have to sacrifice vocal melody and phrasing in favour of the guitars and rhythm section.
Although if you're open to something different (assuming you haven't heard Choke before), this is in many ways an excellent album, clocking in at just above 43 minutes over only 10 songs, and it's a very interesting journey to say the least!