Call for Music Critics and Music Bloggers

Music
cover art

Karate

595

(Southern; US: 23 Oct 2007; UK: 5 Nov 2007)

Post-break-up live records are almost always a dicey proposition, particularly when the album’s release is arbitrary and connected to no specific anniversary or accomplishment for the band. And 595, the new live offering from Boston’s former jazz-indie darlings is no exception. Why Southern Records would choose to put this album out now is a mystery, and why the recording is culled from a 2003 Belgium show, and doesn’t present the performance in its entirety, is equally puzzling. But Luckily, any complaints about this record can stop there. 595 is a wonderful document of a band that went relatively underappreciated in its time, and offers us a glimpse into a live act that all too many of us missed on their myriad tours.


The title number comes from the band themselves, as they claim this is their 595th show. They also happen to think it is their best, and that assertion is difficult to argue with. The band is tight as ever, as Geoff Farina’s big guitar licks and honeyed vocals ride the crest of the smoothest rhythm section this side of Sea and Cake, provided courtesy of drummer Gavin McCarthy and bassist Jeff Goddard. And where most of the credit for the band’s success often went to Farina, 595 gives us tracks like the hard-rocking “Sever”, and the epic closer “Caffeine or Me”, to remind us that McCarthy and Goddard could not only hold their own, but could vary their style as quickly as Farina could stack guitar notes on top of each other.


If the timing of this release is at best confusing, the timing of the show selected here is downright compelling. In 2003, Karate had just released Some Boots, an album that found them completely shedding their post-rock leanings in favor of jazzier elements of the band’s sound. The result was mostly distortion-free and subtle, but no less tame. Yet, whether they knew it then or, picking the tracks, realized it in hindsight, Karate’s performance has a “Where are we going? Where have we been?” feel all over it. The bulk of the eight tracks focuses on Some Boots and 2000’s Unsolved, the latter being very much steeped in their older, post-rock sound.


But having shed the noise on record by 2003, the band was not only unafraid to revisit its younger, nastier material, but also seemed to approach it here with a freshness that pumps life into old songs. Though a solid record, Unsolved sounds a little forced in spots, Farina’s guitar and vocals strained past necessity to achieve an immediacy gained at the expense of their normal intricacy. But, with songs like “Airport”, “The Roots and the Ruins”, and “Sever” played in Belgium in 2003, Karate smoothed out the edges, learning from the years and hundreds of shows they’d played since those songs were written. By perfecting those older tracks, and setting them in contrast to newer songs like “Original Spies” and “Airport”, Karate makes the entire catalog seem vital and expansive, and their talents varied.


The band went on to play nearly a hundred more shows after this one before calling it quits, but 595 shows the group both at a major turning point, and the height of its powers. One can only hope that the strange timing of the release won’t get in the way of making this a record that brings Karate back into the indie community’s awareness. They deserve it a lot more than some of the fledgling bands we’re talking about now.

Rating:

Tagged as: karate
Related Articles
Comments

PopMatters is pleased to offer commenting via Disqus. All historical comments, including those made through Facebook, are being imported and will be visible later this week.

Now on PopMatters
Boris: Attention Please / Heavy Rocks (Reviews) [Wed, 1:00 pm]
What's the Appeal of 'Dancing With the Stars'? (Channel Surfing) [Wed, 11:00 am]
Bridesmaids and Broom Jumpers (Features) [Wed, 10:05 am]
Upside Down: The Creation Records Story (Mixed Media) [Wed, 8:50 am]
Work Refusal (Marginal Utility) [Wed, 8:30 am]
'The Hangover II': The Hamster Wheel (Reviews) [Wed, 7:35 am]
The 10 Greatest War Movies of All Time (Short Ends and Leader) [Wed, 7:00 am]
  1. The 25 Best Progressive Rock Songs of All Time (Features)
  2. The 10 Greatest War Movies of All Time (Short Ends and Leader)
  3. 20 Questions: Thomas Dolby (Features)
  4. The Narrative Pastiche of Games (Columns)
  5. Godard’s Invisible Cinema: The Neglected Genius of Late-Period Godard (Features)
  6. The Retirement of a Gen X Gamer, or My 8-Bit Childhood (Features)
  7. Boundless: An Interview with Bruce Cockburn (Features)
  8. After Fukushima: An Interview with Dr. Robert Jacobs (Features)
  9. King Crimson: In the Wake of Poseidon (40th Anniversary Series) (Reviews)
  10. The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait (Features)
  11. EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints (Reviews)
  12. Moby: Destroyed (Reviews)
  13. Chell's Digital Birth Certificate (Moving Pixels)
  14. What's the Value of Ownership in the Age of Cloud Computing? (Columns)
  15. 'Forks Over Knives' Is About Bucking a System (Reviews)
  16. Wild Beasts: Smother (Reviews)
  17. Killing Osama bin Laden and David Mamet's Special Ops Drama, 'The Unit' (Columns)
  18. The Antlers: Burst Apart (Reviews)
  19. Counterbalance No. 34: The Arcade Fire’s 'Funeral' (Sound Affects)
  20. 'Don't Look Back': Bob Dylan as Punk, Jerk and Genius (Reviews)
  21. Portal 2: Cooperative Testing Initiative (Reviews)
  22. The Top 5 Candidates for Regional Manager at 'The Office's' Dunder Mifflin (Channel Surfing)
  23. AC/DC’s Anti-iTunes Stance and the Cult of the Album (Sound Affects)
  24. The Civil War and the Uneasy Fabric of American Identity (Columns)
  25. Counterbalance No. 33: The Who’s 'Who’s Next' (Sound Affects)
  26. Unity: Bob Marley’s Legacy and the Global Uprising (Features)
  27. ReFramed No.1: Jean-Luc Godard - The Political Years (1968 - 1979) (Short Ends and Leader)
  28. Comics Superheroes Leap Across the Great Cultural Divide (Columns)
  29. Jalen Rose and Bernard Hopkins: The Miseducation of the Black Athlete (Columns)
  30. Martina McBride's Songs Inspire a New Generation of Country Singers (Columns)
  1. An Appreciation of the Compact Disc (Sound Affects)
  2. Mount and Blade: With Fire and Sword (Reviews)
  3. Counterbalance No. 31: 'Led Zeppelin IV' (Sound Affects)
  4. I'm Starting to Root for This Guy: Branagh's 'Thor' As Rachmaninov's Second (Features)
  5. “Her Name Is Caroline”: Identifying the Misbehaving Woman in 'Portal 2' (Moving Pixels)
  6. Actresses Shining Behind The Cameras (Short Ends and Leader)
  7. 'Goldeneye 007': A Good Game, But Not a Good Wii Game (Moving Pixels)
  8. The Horror The Horror: Wilderness (Reviews)
  9. The Situation Room Photo (Marginal Utility)
  10. Progressive Rock With a Capital P: Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die (Reviews)
  11. Sleigh Bells: 24 April 2011 - Austin, TX (Reviews)
  12. Enrollment Begins: Undressing Promises about Video Games with McLuhan (Moving Pixels)
  13. Best Actress Rewind: 1997 (Mixed Media)
  14. Cannes Film Festival: Polisse and Habemus Papam (Reviews)
  15. Moby: Destroyed (Reviews)
  16. World of Hurt: Three Issues With Uncanny X-Force (Reviews)
  17. Tame Impala + Yuck: 3 May 2011 - Chicago (Reviews)
  18. Moving Pixels Podcast: A Conversation from a Critical Distance (Moving Pixels)
  19. American Experience: Freedom Riders (Reviews)
  20. Ladytron - Gravity the Seducer (new album / streams) (Mixed Media)
  21. The Problem with 'Priest', and Other Goth Apocalypses (Short Ends and Leader)
  22. Rocking Chair Blues: Howlin' Wolf - “Howlin’ for My Baby" (Sound Affects)
  23. Five Reasons to Boycott Home Premium (Channel Surfing)
  24. Contest: Take This Survey, Win a $100 Ticketmaster Gift Card (Mixed Media)
  25. What Terrence Malick's 'The Tree of Life' is actually about (PopWire)
PM Picks
Music Archive
Announcements
Ratings

10 - The Best of the Best

9 - Very Nearly Perfect

8 - Excellent

7 - Damn Good

6 - Good

5 - Average

4 - Unexceptional

3 - Weak

2 - Seriously Flawed

1 - Terrible

© 1999-2011 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc. and PopMatters Magazine.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.