Choking Victim  - Squatta's Paradise (Cover Artwork)

Choking Victim

Squatta's Paradise (1996)

Tent City

I recently read an interview with STZA (frontman of Choking Victim and, later, Leftover Crack) in which he describes his music as "bubblegum crust." "Bubblegum crust," I thought to myself, "what an awesome idea." After years of listening to Choking Victim, Leftover Crack and various other Choking Victim spin-offs, I never really pinpointed the "bubblegum" aspect of it all. Sure, I knew it was catchy (for the most part) and crusty (all the time), but I could never understand why Choking Victim/Leftover Crack were the only crust-ish bands worth listening to. I guess it was the bubblegum all along.

After dusting off Squatta's Paradise a few weeks ago, I realized what an important sound the Crack Family had started. The opening track, "Infested: Lindane Conspiracy Pt. 1" is a prime example of the potency of this "bubblegum crust." The opening guitar riff is immediately grabbing and the subsequent ska upstrokes would later come to be the trademark of the Crack Family sound. The vocal melodies (that's right, I said melodies) are extremely catchy as well. For being self-described fuck-ups, these Crack heads are extremely talented at their instruments, with extreme props to the bass. The overlapping backup vocals and "whoa-oh"s toward the end of the song solidify the bubblegum status of the band. Not bad for an ode to scabies, lice and other crusty pests. Squatta's Paradise The next track, "Death Song" is a more straightforward (crust) punk song. It's a decent song, but Choking Victim is capable of much more. Tat "much more" mentioned in the previous sentence is exemplified in the next song, "Born to Die." "Born to Die" is featured in an alternate form on the Leftover Crack album, Mediocre Generica*. This version, however, is the superior of the two and was my first introduction to Choking Victim, way back in the 8th grade (yikes). It is the perfect mix of angry vocals, clever (enough) political lyrics, ska, crust, bouncy basslines and great song structuring.

The EP ends with "Suicide (A Better Way)." This song appears in a different form on the Choking Victim full-length, No Gods, No Managers. As with "Born to Die," the Squata's Paradise version of "Suicide" is superior to the album version. And, as usual, the song mixes ska and crust punk with a fair amount of success.

While there are two GREAT songs on this EP, I would only recommend it to die-hard LoC and CV fans. The full-lengths are much better, and you'll get more bang for your buck (that you most likely begged for outside of your squat). But still, "Infected" and "Born to Die" are so great that a purchase might just be worthwhile. Here's to the bubblegum.

* - The members of Leftover Crack would like me to once again remind you that Mediocre Generica was released on September 11, 2001.