As the singer of 90’s Hawaii skatepunk natives/LA rock band Chokebore, Troy Von Balthazar has been hiding out in France for some time; far away from the obscurity of Southern California.
A Chokebore reunion in France (and parts of mainland Europe) and several solo albums later, Troy still sounds the same as ever; maybe a bit more focused.
Growing up, Chokebore was probably THE band that got me through my “sadcore “ teenage years. I even learned some of these songs on guitar when I was dreaming of rockstardom in my suburban bedroom.
Lucky enough, to see them play half a dozen times on the west coast with the likes of Unwound and the Butthole Surfers, I’ve always had a soft spot from this band ever since having my mind blown witnessing Troy doing backflips whilst playing guitar, and opening for Nirvana back in 1994 in Seattle Washington.
Chokebore (“the strangest band on Amrep”) never reached the popularity in the States as they did in Europe. Enjoying mainstream popularity particularly in France, most of the band now makes Europe their permanent home; sometimes awaking from their slumber to play and record.
Troy seems to be the one most prolific: “…is with demon” might stand as his strongest solo album to date. Released on clear vinyl (and cd) on Vicious Circle out of France; (and to sound cliche) this record feels a bit more mature and fresh sounding. The demon is alive and well in Troy Von Balthazar.
Filled with acoustic guitar and some piano ballads, its much in the same dark vein as his other releases, yet, this record is more sharpened with stronger melodies and lyrics, as well as more instrumentation.
The record starts out with the soft “Tropical” reminiscent of Elliott Smith. I swear “Coco” is based on an old unreleased Chokebore song that I have a live recording of somewhere. Definitely takes me back to my younger days. “Coco” fades nicely into “about being hurt”, followed by “Distresses”; another gentle ballad. The single, “Tiger vs. Pigeon” is another sweet little tune, followed by the melancholy of “Applause”. “is with demon” quiets down about this point, but picks up again at “Zeros”, before it lulls you comfortably to sleep with the sweet “Viva”.
After losing touch with Troy’s music the last few years, this record is a nice way of rediscovering this talented songwriter for old and new fans alike. If you feel this record needs a bit more electric noise, check out Motionless or A Taste for bitters by Chokebore and reminisce about the 90’s once again (or for the first time for you hip teenagers).