Chokebore have always released intense, challenging music. Thankfully, A Taste for Bitters, their third full-length for AmRep, continues this tradition. This time around, however, they've taken a step back from the jarring assault of Motionless and the noisy experimentalism of Anything Near Water in order to create a more controlled--though no less intense--record.

The band's penchant for employing unusual chords and dissonance is still evident, though those elements play more of a supporting role here, whereas in the past they were most often up front. By stepping back, they have given the songs on A Taste for Bitters more room to stand on their own, and the result is quite often stunning.

"Popular Modern Themes", "Narrow", and "It Could Ruin Your Day" have the familiar Chokebore sound fans will instantly recognize and appreciate, while the title track and "Days of Nothing" find the band exploring much mellower territory than it has in the past. "Days" sounds like a warped acoustic Beatles lament, and the creeping pace of the song is used on a number of other songs on the album, creating a very brooding and heavy (though not in the metal sense) collection of songs.

This brooding atmosphere is often reflected in the lyrics, which are acutely introspective, critical, and written from what seems a very defeated standpoint. Most affecting is "Your Let Down", which starts out quietly and slowly builds in tension and volume, while the singer's rhetorical Isn't that right, you're let down? (the song's only lyric) rises from a whisper to a tortured howl. But don't worry, Chokebore diehards, Troy still kicks out twisted lyrical gems like This room is full of blank stares, eels on the balconies, and when they scream like hawks, man I listen patiently. And as a recent show in San Francisco proved, they're still one of the most intense live bands playing today.

If justice prevails, "One Easy Pieces" will be the smash hit of the season, as it is one of the best songs the band has thus-far recorded. But if it isn't, no matter. The band seems in no hurry to cater to the passing whims of the fickle mainstream public, and we are all the richer for it.

Richy Boyer
Rocket magazine