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A lingering guitar note. A cushion of a bassline nudging along a hushed
cadence unspooling impressionistic poeticism one halting line at a time; the
sparse snap of a snare providing punctuation. This is how Boston’s Karate
opened their third full-length, 1998’s The Bed Is In The Ocean. Perhaps
this was a reaction to the aggressive punk tones that marked their previous
album, or maybe they hoped to capture the somnambulant dusk on one of
those pristine fall days that make living in a town whose population swells
when colleges welcome back students all worthwhile. Then again, Karate
never made a point of chasing the same idea twice, and “There Are Ghosts”
remains in line with the band’s stylistic intrepidness and unpredictability.
Even the group’s lineup appeared constantly in flux. After expanding from
a trio to a quartet and employing a dual-guitar attack with 1997’s In Place
of Real Insight, founding member Eamonn Vitt hung up his axe to attend
medical school. Karate soldiered on as a trio, with mid-stream addition Jeff
Goddard’s bass work helping establish a sidewinding path forward through
the smoky jazz melodicism and sun-beaten blues brushstrokes that hung in
the background of the band’s catalog.

In their short time together, Karate helped bolster the national punk
ecosystem, a scene in which individual artistic vision was prized but rarely
achieved. Their exacting precision and emotive interplay helped recombine
the DNA of the dignified grace of slowcore, the hot-and-sweaty atmospherics
of the blues, and the high-wire tension of post-hardcore to deliver drawling
instrumental curveballs and a furtive riptide climax with a controlled grace
on “Outside Is The Drama.” Singer-guitarist Geoff Farina frequently teased
out the emotional nuances of each song, his worn-in voice shading in the
complexities of his enigmatic lyrics; no matter how difficult it may be to
parse his snatched-from-daily-life wisdoms, on The Bed Is In The Ocean
Farina sounded like a guy who knew exactly the right thing to tell whoever
may be listening. And with Karate’s snaking turns through quasi-punk
reveries no one else appeared capable of mustering, it’s comforting to hear it
accomplished by a band that knew exactly what they were doing.


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Karate - The Bed Is In The Ocean

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