Choked Up is the musical project of songwriter and visual artist Cristy C. Road, known in part for her zines, books, tarot cards, and album art, as well as her time in Brooklyn based pop-punk band The Homewreckers. As Choked Up, Road has been accompanied by a rotating cast of bandmates, a decision that many songwriters are pushed towards by the practical challenges of keeping a consistent band. For her upcoming LP, Mala Lengua, Cristy recruited her “dream band”, joining up with long time friends and collaborators at Our Wicked Lady studios in Brooklyn. Cristy is joined on Mala Lengua by drummer Tommy Hottpants, guitarist Miski Dee Rodriguez, and longtime Choked Up bassist Rose Bomberg.
Returning to a recurring theme in Road’s work, Mala Lengua blends the personal and the political, telling love stories impacted by a crooked and warped status quo. The feeling of falling love while the world is falling apart is a frequent creative stomping grounds for Choked Up, returning across releases. For Road, this is an opportunity to discuss her experience as a queer latina woman and the challenges that come with it while also telling a story that is personal and emotional. Road explains “every song is about being in love or falling in love, but under the guise of some kind of bullshit.”
The opening track, Tragic Bullshit, distills this concept into a minute of classic pop-punk. A bouncy opening bassline acts as a springboard for a rush of guitars as Road launches into a rapid fire snarl of lyrics. Road describes Tragic Bullshit as a “fuck the world, everything sucks, let’s run away together” song, and the band attacks with the reckless abandon of a powerful crush. Nuts4Nuts dives deeper into the specifics of the “bullshit” that defines these relationships. Painting a picture of an early Covid New York, Nuts4Nuts looks out at a suffering city and finds hope in the people. Half of the song was written pre-covid, inspired by the New York queer-core scene, paying tribute to the strong sense of community Road felt.
Sonically, Choked Up draws a heavy influence from 90’s East Bay punk and pop-punk, but Road’s appreciation for the emotive pop of her youth, including Selena, Cyndi Lauper, and Shakira, is a subtler force, present in the record’s more hopeful moments. Working with producer Jade Payne, the band sought out a raw garagey sound, capturing the energy of the new lineup. There are two solo tracks snuck between the full force of the four piece band, the reflective serenade “In Your Dreams” and the snarky self-titled closer “Choked Up”.
Though Mala Lengua draws on a baseline of righteous anger, a love for community shines through despite the “bullshit”. Equal parts love and frustration, Choked Up epitomize the spirit of pop-punk on these songs, creating something that is simultaneously dejected and hopeful.