Cherry Choke and the Big Get On

Bethancourt wants to reach out and grab you.When last we left British guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt, he was detailing the battle between the planets Satanica and Amphibia for all the lost souls in the universe as it played out on the second album from his band, The Kings of Frog Island. Bethancourt (also of Josiah) now joins bassist/backing vocalist Gregg Hunt and drummer Dan Lockton in Cherry Choke, a garage rocking power trio whose self-titled debut album, available via Elektrohasch Schallplatten, revels in its simplicity and rootsy flavor.

Split even on CD into sides one and two, Cherry Choke offers 10 straightforward tracks wherein the fuzzy tone that’s come to be expected from Bethancourt in Josiah and The Kings of Frog Island mostly takes a back seat to a cleaner type of distortion akin to the ’70s-inspired indie that’s dominated the party rock ideal for the better part of this decade. If I said Cherry Choke takes inspiration from Hendrix, The Stooges, MC5 and T-Rex, it would be the same as saying “they play garage rock,” but there it is.

Have a seat. (Photo by Emma Lowe)There are some hits and some misses throughout the album, but the memorable “Ride My Black Balloon,” at track three, is the first real showing of Cherry Choke at their best. Somewhat less frantic than “She Turns Me On” and “The Lie,” which come right before it, the repetition of the title line drills it into your head so that you start repeating it, mantra-like, without even realizing. Though “Reflections in Black” is both more distorted and more aggressive, “Ride My Black Balloon” still remains the strongest number on the side one. The short psychedelic instrumental “Jezebel” helps to divide Cherry Choke and set the tone for the album’s broader-reaching second half.

Side two begins with “Cheetah,” which fits well alongside side one’s more forthright cuts, but it’s with “I Can See the Girls Grow,” with a further back vocal from Bethancourt and a deeper guitar sound — one that still bounces along at a fairly good clip — that Cherry Choke commences its expansion. The last three tracks, beginning with the most Hendrixian “The Need,” are unmistakably the highlights of the record. “The Need” balances the fuzz with the swagger and is the first real instance since “Ride My Black Balloon” in which Cherry Choke‘s songwriting seems to be in focus. While other tracks have a frivolous, spontaneous, jammed-out appeal, there’s no denying the solo in “The Need” is well constructed and immaculately executed. Leading into the faster “In My Mind” and instrumental closer “Fridays in June,” the album’s close presents its brightest moments.

Cherry Choke has enough of Bethancourt‘s style and sound to please fans of his previous work, but pushes in a direction altogether different. Nonetheless, they are an organic-sounding trio with Hunt and Lockton offering much in the way of striking classic rock rhythms and a couple genuinely remarkable tracks on their debut, well suited to whatever outdoor chicanery you might be getting up to this summer.

Cherry Choke on MySpace

Elektrohasch Schallplatten

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