Monday, December 30, 2013

Choke Up - Pilot Passenger / Joaquin Murietta

Pilot Passenger / Joaquin Murietta might be the most beautiful punk rock I’ve heard in a long time. A really smart record.

There’s an element of fascination when art imitates life; when an artist, or in this case, a band of artists, can produce a well-rounded concept of fact and fiction; rich in detail and chiseled to near perfection with integrity and intelligence. Choke Up brings prolific talent to the Boston music scene.

Boston punk band Choke Up, released their third EP Pilot Passenger / Joaquin Murietta this fall as a follow up to their 2011 EP, Spent. At first listen, the eight song record embodies the stylings of Small Brown Bike and Cursive, all that made Spent attractive, but it soon becomes clear that the record is comprised of cohesive vignettes a la David Comes To Life. “Pilot Passenger / Joaquin Murietta definitely evolved into a concept album,” states Sam Johnson. “We never really set out with the intention of writing one,” explaining that "Pilot" and "Joaquin" were originally acoustic songs written independently of one another, and played exclusively offstage.

The EP explodes with the tremendous duo, “Pilot” and “Passenger”, a set of first person narratives, both based on an incident that happened in San Diego in 2008 when a Korean immigrant, Dong Yun Yoon, lost his wife, two children and mother-in-law when a Marine Corps jet slammed into the family's house. “In multiple interviews, this bereaved man just kept repeating that he didn't blame the pilot, who survived, and implored the press to do the same. I was floored by his reaction so I scribbled down "plane crash" on a piece of paper and wrote "Pilot" a year later.” Never have the words “We lost the right engine…we're going down” been sung with such velocity.

The second story on the EP is about Joaquin Murietta, a real life Mexican Robin Hood situated in the California Gold Rush era of the 1850’s and who inspired the fictional character Zorro. Tracks 5 through 8 paint a picture of a wronged man turned vindictive outlaw and the authority figure set to bring him down. “It was a narrative impossible for me to ignore,” explained Johnson. “So I researched what time has eroded into an indecipherable mix of fact and fiction and wrote my own version in a few hours.”

After realizing these separate unfinished songs shared strong thematic ties, "Pilot" was given an entirely fictionalized antithesis (Yoon never jumped off One America Plaza) and the "Joaquin" installments followed the outlaw into legend. Together, these tracks, along with a few acoustic versions formed the conceptualized EP.

Above: Cat's mind being blown by the new Choke Up record (image credit)

Pilot Passenger / Joaquin Murietta appears to embody the evolution of the Choke Up sound that saw the band straying from familiarity in order to articulate the narratives in the most effective way possible. “While it doesn't necessarily reflect the direction of Choke Up, the experience certainly broadened our perspectives and helped us break out of our comfort zone,” says Johnson.

This hardcore punk band from Boston just set the creative bar by utilizing their original style and outside elements as a springboard to constitute passionate and emotional music. Pilot Passenger / Joaquin Murietta is full of romantic tragedies, theatrical interpretations and intuitive decisions that have culminated into what I consider one of the best records of 2013 and can only continue to be epic in the New Year.

Pilot Passenger / Joaquin Murietta might be the most beautiful punk rock I’ve heard in a long time. A really smart record.

The EP is available for purchase on Bandcamp for $5 and will soon be available on cassette through John Wilkes Booth Records. Choke Up will be touring the Northeast and Midwest in March with Lee Corey Oswald (OR) and will be releasing their first LP on vinyl later this summer. You can see Choke Up along with Lady Bones, Raw Blow and Big Big Bucks at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston on New Year’s Eve (8p/21+/$5). Follow Choke Up on Facebook and Twitter for additional show dates and release announcements.

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