When musicians, budding or established, hear an album that really affects them, that speaks to some clandestine part of their being, what follows is the irresistible urge to create music just like what they just heard. Invariably, you come to a crossroads where you can take the easy, wide road of pure imitation, where you can walk in the company of cut-and-paste artists like Cerebral Ballzy, Jet and The Black Keys. There is, however, that narrower and far-less traveled road that takes us to the same point of inspiration that our forebears had been, allowing us to delve into the core of what makes their sound so personally appealing. Stop Breathing has, in the form of their eponymous debut, come right up to that point of decision, forced to choose between risky experimentation or the safety of the impasse of imitation.
At first, this self-titled album seems to offer us more of the same standard fare for a hardcore album. By the third track, “Bombs Away,” they seem to venture tentatively outside of the standard formula for the genre. With the passage of each song, the basslines seem to get looser, yet simultaneously more aggressive, with the drummer thundering away in order to stay hot on his heels. While both guitarists are, more often than not, mirroring each others’ riffs, they break away from each other in a few moments that seem to show Stop Breathing’s efforts to try something different and inject a long absent sense of experimentation into their sound. On top of it all, frontman John C’s lyrics, though tragically downplayed, are actually pretty sapient, taking aim at the absurdity of those taking their superficiality far too seriously. What makes Stop Breathing work so well is their self-avowed commitment to “just having fun,” an attitude that frees them up to pursue different tangents that happen to catch their fancy.
In their own unintentional way, Stop Breathing have taken a trip back to the source of what fueled punk’s development from the outset: a disregard for traditional musical structure, the pursuit of the loudest sounds, and an active rejection of the mainstream mindset. However, like the travelers in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s famous experimental opus, The Holy Mountain, the members of Stop Breathing need to abandon all the trappings of their former musical identity in order to reach the summit of creativity. Hearing their debut album, we can hear that Stop Breathing is more than ready for that journey.