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Karate - Pockets [CD]

  • 281142
$13.16 (inc Tax) $10.96 (exc Tax)
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Product Description

8 tracks, 38 minutes.  Seventh album from Boston based Karate, Pockets is weighted with short soulful meditations on the personal/political.

Karate was an American band, formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1993 by Geoff Farina, Eamonn Vitt and Gavin McCarthy. In 1995, Jeff Goddard joined the band as bass player, and Vitt moved to second guitar. Vitt departed Karate in 1997. The band was characterised by their love for improvised music and classic rock and their adherence to the DIY punk ethos of their youth, which made them difficult to classify, being a strange fusion of indie rock, punk, blues, jazz and post-rock.

Pockets continues the project of lacing shrewd rock songwriting with quirky, soulful rhythms that the band introduced with Unsolved. This time around the songs are more concise and the tempos quicker, but Pockets also has its contemplative moments. Case in point is "Water," the song from which the recording's title comes, one that begins with a century-old blues progression and gently meanders into the 8th-note strumming style of the Secret Stars, Farina's other (early-90s) band. While the sparse and trudging "Alingual" sounds straight off one of Karate's early singles, the densely textured "Cacophony" and "Concrete" feature the gritty guitar work of Chris Brokaw (Consonant, Pullman, Steve Wynn, Come, Codeine).
Lyrically Pockets is full of stories that make no differentiation between the personal and political: "The State I'm In" aka "Goode Buy From Cobbs Creek Park" chronicles Farina's surreal experiences growing up central Pennsylvania in the early 1980's, hanging out at a local mall that overlooked the prison that held Mumia Abu-Jamal, and seeing Philadelphia mayor Wilson Goode bomb the MOVE headquarters in the city's Cobbs Creek Park region. Likewise "Tow Truck" tells of a tow truck driver who lives in fear of losing his job to immigrants, and "Cacophony" of two people who find justification for excess and solace from the world's problems in the American media's comfortable euphemisms. Together these songs provide a uniquely personal view of the types of political issues that we have all encountered.

"On Pockets, Karate shed their post-rock trappings entirely, sublimating emo and jazz beneath a patina of polished, intuitive 70s pop-rock. These concise songs feel effortless in a way that belies their understated technical proficiency, and are so seamlessly sequenced that the mood-- breezy and jazzy, yet dark and deliberately unfolding-- is airtight. Farina metes out sharp, oblique narratives that in his resonant and ascetically emotive voice, and Pockets attains the confluence of instinctive aural appeal, hard-won technical ability, and refined vision of which year-end lists are made.

A record of such stark beauty and discreet drama could only open with a flourish, and the first quavering chord of "With Age" is a gloved hand drawing back a velvet curtain. It establishes a formula that flexes through many permutations of mood and color over the remainder of the album: Clean, bright guitars that swing at a peppy mid-tempo or ponderously bend and stress; melodic, fleet basslines; a wash of supple percussion; and fluid dynamic shifts interleaved with cadenced, organic guitar solos.

"Water" is a spacious masterpiece of quietly seething atmosphere, as Farina intones, "I want to take you to dinner but you'd rather hang out in rest stops/ Engaging in discourse better scratched into desktops," over minimal percussion and a liquid arpeggio. The staccato, uptempo swing of "The State I'm In, a.k.a. Goode Buy from Cobbs Creek Park" is a boisterous lament of working class struggles. And "Cacophony"-- one of two songs that features supplementary guitar from Codeine's Chris Brokaw-- unfurls woozy, meandering melodies over martial drumming in a procession of grand crests and expanses of arid ambiance.

By all rights, Karate-- 10 years and six albums into their career-- should be recording limp rehashes of old material by now. But the most striking thing about Pockets is how fresh and vital it sounds. Pockets is a lens through which Farina flows pure and unfettered, focused into one puissant beam. No longer the artist who dabbles, his production is enriched and amplified by the harmonization of all the false starts, fragmentary ideas, and assimilated styles that he's amassed in his pursuit of transcendence." - Pitchfork 8.2/10

Track Listing
  1. With Age
  2. Water
  3. "The State I'm In" aka "Goode Buy from Cobbs Creek Park"
  4. Cacophony
  5. Alingual
  6. Tow Truck
  7. Pines
  8. Concrete
  • Available on CD and LP.
  • Released: August 2004

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