Choke - Foreword (Cover Artwork)


Foreword (2000)


I've decided that, with the vast expanses of free time I so often find myself with, I'll try to make a regular contribution to this reviews section and share my humble opinion. I figured, what better place to start reviewing a CD collection than with my favourite CD?

My first experience with Choke came while while searching for information about the upcoming (at the time) Another Joe album, plasti-scene. This search brought me to the Smallman Records website, with whom Another Joe had recently signed. They offered free mp3s from plasti-scene, as well as Choke, Layaway Plan, and other signed artists. I grabbed the new AJ, plus the Choke tracks there. Choke impressed me so much, I decided to order a CD. I sent a mailorder in for Needless to Say (released before Foreword) and anxiously awaited its arrival. With my first listen, I was blown away (but this is a story for another review). Fast foreward (no pun intended) a few weeks, and I borrow Foreword from a friend.

My first spin through the disc left me perplexed. The wasn't at all like Needless to Say, and left me a bit disappointed. But, I soldiered on. The music slowly grew on me, and each time through I found something new to like about it, until I finally realized how brilliant this album actually is.

The musical style present on this album is very difficult to explain. If there was such a thing as "abstract punk", this would be it. Choke doesn't follow the rules of typical punk music. They adhere very loosely to the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern, much the same way Propagandhi does so skillfully. Power chords are almost nonexistant on this album. Instead, both guitarist use the entire range of their instrument, interlacing complicated riffs behind vocals so beautifully that I sometimes stop to think about just how long it would have taken to write just one of these songs.

In terms of vocals, I've heard friends comment about the nasal sound of the lead singer's vocals. It's true, he does have a bit of a nasal voice, but to me it goes perfectly with the rest of the music. The backup vocals can be frustrating to listen to at times. Very often they don't follow the melody (if can even be called that) of the song, but seem to take on a life of their own. Like the album itself, this takes a bit of getting used to. Now, every listen to "More Than One Opponent" sends shivers down my spine when the word "fearless!" is so boldly belted out. The most extreme case of these non-melodic backing vocals occurs during "perfect, plastic", when the words "better than ever" don't even seem to follow the timing of the song. I still cringe sometimes when I hear that (but all is forgiven by the time the amazing ending rolls around...)

While some may disagree with my perfect rating for this CD, how could I, in good conscience, give my favourite CD less than perfect? The only complaint I have is the liner notes. The lyrics are incomplete, and infuriatingly hard to follow.

There's not much more I can say about this album, other than do yourself a favour and download the free songs on the Smallman website (link below). Though the songs there are good, there are at least (in my opinion) four songs better than those on the album. If you buy the CD, a word of warning: I don't think I know anybody who liked it from the minute they first put it into their player. Give it a few listens, and hopefully you'll learn to enjoy it as much as I do.