Karate
Some Boots


4.0
excellent

Review

by tom79 USER (84 Reviews)
November 15th, 2021 | 4 replies


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist


I don’t know much about Karate. The band, I mean, although I don’t know much about the martial art either, though I took classes for two years as a kid. Karate was an American band from Boston who released six LPs between 1996 - 2004, and they were really good (sometimes I think that’s the extent of my music criticism skills). They have a unique sound and I can honestly say I’ve never heard another band that sounds like them (I’d be happy to discover some). They take a fairly standard indie-rock template and infuse it with elements of emo, post-rock and jazz, with a progression towards the latter in later albums. Yet even with the hybrid of influences it all sounds so cohesive. Listening to Karate, there’s a recurring mental scene I conjure up which may have originated from a dream: I am walking alone late at night in an unfamiliar city along a deserted street lined by shops and bars, lounges if you will. It’s a dismal, lonely scene, not unlike one out of a 40s film noir - there’s a few cars parked along the curb, maybe an ominous black cat loiters around a tipped over garbage can. I enter a low-ceilinged nightclub which seems the most lively from outside, though it’s not very lively at all. Inside it's dimly lit, plumes of cigarette smoke obscure the view and I can barely make out the small groups of people huddled at the small round tables. It feels like a secret club but no one noticed or cared that I entered. A band is playing in the corner, and the music sounds like the music on “Some Boots”, the album I’m supposed to be reviewing now instead of practicing my terribly lacking creative writing skills. Maybe that’s just the stock image that comes to mind when I think of jazz music, a low-imagination tableau invoked subconsciously. The difference, I guess, is that when I enter a jazz club I would feel like an imposter, like someone who doesn’t get or truly appreciate the fine art of such a storied and influential genre (this happened once in NYC, the only time I’ve been to one). But for whatever reason Karate conjures up the same sort of scene except I feel like I would belong, like I found the right place, and I would sit and listen, talking to no one, drinking and smoking the night away into the quiet hours of the morning (I also imagine the band never stopping for some reason).

Maybe what I’m getting at is they have a very sleek sound, a very cool sound. Frontman Geoff Farina delivers words in a distinct, charismatic way that is at once detached and personal, alternating between almost spoken-word narratives, crooning and, well, all-out singing - the guy’s got range. The songs often move along at a steady, mid-tempo pace yet their seven, eight minute run times rarely feel like it. It maybe seems odd to describe music as literary or cinematic but that’s what comes to mind. By description alone it sounds like it could fall into kitsch territory but it doesn’t - the band is just too adept at what they do. The lyrics are thoughtful and the songs feel tight, groovy, meticulously crafted. I don’t play guitar and I’m terrible at describing why guitar sounds good but these guys have some of the most impressive guitar work in the indie-rock realm I’ve heard (I’m generally not one who listens to music for its virtuoso qualities but it’s not hard to realize the band knows what they’re doing and appreciate the technical prowess).

I guess I just wanted to write a little something about Karate as they seem to fly under the radar - this having under 50 ratings at the time of writing seems, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, criminal. This record is as good a place to start as any, a thorough representation of their jazzy, rhythmic brand of rock. Their earlier records find the improvisational element toned down in favor of a more cathartic, heavier sound - and I love that sound - but I think they really hit their stride with 2000’s “Unsolved”, sharpened their craft here which then culminates in their final LP, 2004’s “Pockets”. And finally, after years, their music is available on streaming services. Feels like an advertisement, but I just like this band a lot, if you couldn't already tell.



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user ratings (46)
4
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Bedex
November 15th 2021


2822 Comments


Nice alb, deserved a review, pos'd m/

MotokoKusanagi
November 15th 2021


4290 Comments


will have to check this, i have their prior album Unsolved and it's pretty good. nice review

Kiran
Emeritus
November 19th 2021


6128 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh wow, this is on spotify finally! I used to love these guys, haven't listened in years. Great review Tom, nice to see one finally up

tom79
November 23rd 2021


3842 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Kiran, nice seeing you around. Yeah I thought it deserved one. Same, until their music went on streaming services I hadn't listened in years (2015 maybe?).

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