Expect adjectives. Adjectives and hyphens. For, you see, Chokecherry are a punk band that doesn’t play punk songs. I guess folk-punk is the subgenre tag du jour, but that term steers in the wrong direction in many ways. As does country-punk, though it’s far more apt. Chokecherry play country songs run through a DIY punk filter, influenced by a lifestyle embracing basement shows and independence, doused in twang and sing-alongs. It’s a country version of Plan-It-X punk.
The Minneapolis band released In the Wine Press in 2008, broke up, and reunited to eventually release this sophomore album, The Future Was a Long Time Ago. The record continues where they left off 6-ish years ago, but there is a strong punk lean in song structures and the group and backing vocals.
Jon Collins’ voice remains the heart of Chokecherry, delivered in a Hank Williams twang that wavers near being overdone, occasionally missing a key in swing of things, which is admittedly a big piece of the band’s charm because it increases the vulnerability that is always at the core of a good country song. The tempo is middling, with more upbeat songs than ballads, and there is a penchant to include background shouts, hollers, and occasionally a big chorus. One point where outer influence over cedes the country is “Good Times (Are Over),” which has a bit of a Replacements-esque pop, and also in “Downtown Dogs,” where Pamela Laizure’s vocals jump in counter-melody and creates a distraction. Chokecherry aren’t perfect, nor do they mean to be. This is influenced by lo-fi punk and there’s no Autotune at play.
The standouts on the record include title track “The Future Was a Long Time Ago” and “Spent Your Best Years,” the latter of which is twangy and downhome, but upbeat and with an off-kilter charm. The vocals are a mixture of Collins’ lead, but with some trade-offs and harmonies at the chorus and it’s concise at 3:14. The songs are political in nature, but told through a filtered first-person that’s more introspective than preachy. It’s all topped off with some well-placed violin, an instrument that I’m something of a sucker for.
7.3 / 10
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