With their full-length debut, Choke On It, Raleigh's No Love has grown into a formidable outfit with a strong contender for the year's best punk record.
At first blush, Choke On It is a caffeinated rush of sharply barked vocals and surging guitars punctuated by potent hooks. But closer listening reveals an understated complexity that's unabashed in its ambition and unpretentious in its execution. It's the rare punk record that offers depth and nuance without shedding an ounce of urgency.
It's also the product of a lifetime of far-ranging deep-cut influences, but No Love synthesizes its references so fully that pinpointing them is akin to counting grains of sand. At times, there are echoes of West Coast hardcore icons like The Adolescents, or a jagged guitar riff that suggests The Fall or Wire. Scores more are tucked into the margins. Regardless, not a single second feels nostalgic, and the band's uncanny chemistry binds its cacophony.
On "Dogs // Wolves," reprised from the band's 2015 7-inch, singer Elizabeth Lynch sneers, "Do you hate me? Do you love me? Do you think you're miles above me?" Guitarists Seth Beard and Daniel Lupton answer her call with a needling lick that sounds like a schoolyard taunt. "Bad Things" surges with anthemic vamps that peel off into stinging single-note guitar runs. The title track edges close to hardcore in its rabid rush, but again shines with searing melodies and an instinctive turn toward sharp hooks.
Lynch is a commanding presence behind the microphone, shading the contours of her band's melodies as she shouts lyrics that feel prescient without resorting to sloganeering. Behind her, Lupton and Beard volley vicious licks and boldface power-chord vamps while bassist Osamu Sueyoshi and drummer Dave Yarwood push the tempo with a volatile low end that offers as many sudden lunges and barbed hooks as the melodic leads. (Yarwood left the band post-recording and has since been replaced by Chris Grubbs.)
As a unit, though, the band steers its storm with precision. Few debuts arrive so accomplished, and few records with this degree of veteran poise feel so urgent and explosive.