Choke Up may hail from Bean Town, but with their brand of hearts-on-their-sleeves punk rock, it would be easy to confuse them for a Philly (or at least southern New Jersey) act. Over the course of three EPs and one split, Choke Up has been crafting their own take on emotive hardcore, culminating in their debut album, Black Coffee, Bad Habits.
Structurally speaking, Black Coffee, Bad Habits is full of delicate riffs mixed in with heavy power chords, passionate (if not quite in key) lead vocals, plenty of gang sing-alongs, and even some semi-genre bending acoustic tunes. It’s might just be the first must-have album of 2015 for anyone whose favorite albums of 2013 and 2014 were The Future Is Cancelled and Home, Like No Place Is There respectively.
Of course, that’s pretty much all Black Coffee, Bad Habits has going for it. Choke Up doesn’t seem too interested in trying out gimmicks: there’s no fancy production tricks, no guest vocalists, no over-the-top flashy musicianship… instead they let their music speak for them. It’s a tactic that pays off for the most part: there are plenty of bangers throughout the album (“My Oh My”, “Don’t Wake Up”, “Woke Up Drunk”, “Rust” to name a few), but with 14 tracks sometimes the album feels like it runs on for much longer than 40 minutes, and some songs become indistinguishable from others.
Small complaints aside, Choke Up has created what is a solid debut album. Black Coffee, Bad Habits may not be wholly original (then again, what is these days?) but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun listen.
3 / 5
RIYL: Captain, We’re Sinking, The Hotelier, Have Mercy