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Album Review

With a mixture of jazz-influenced fluidity and nearby noodling, Karate's fourth album delivers dramatic stop/start rock that ebbs and flows and is sparked, at its' best moments, by lost narratives and cutting guitar work. Occasionally it is only the crisp, billowy, unsteady patterns of drummer Gavin McCarthy that remind you that this is not a pop-fusion effort from the late '70s. The unsettling moments and the ever-present tension that make a band like June Of '44 take on the same territory more successfully are replaced by an over-reliance on technical proficiency and shifting time signatures.

Certainly there is some great interplay between the bassist and drummer, resulting in some truly solid rhythms and a pervading sense of anger pops up on "Sever" that attempts to pull the listener in. Throughout the record, Geoff Farina's lyrical asides manage to balance out the pretentious with the tossed-off. Although this release never finds the trio hitting the emotional heights they achieved on their first two albums, Karate and In Place Of Real Insight — they've managed to expand the breadth of their sound as well as help set the bar a bit higher for musical proficiency in the realm of indie rock.

Customer Reviews


Easily one of the best records i own. A wonderful mix of Steely Dan, Wes Montgomery, and Mogwai... it mixes so many genres, Farina is such a great musician, and it really shows through his mastery on guitar. I suggest listening to "595" and "Some boots" along with this one.

Karate's best

For me, this remains Karate's finest album. The songwriting is impeccable, the guitar work stunning, and the rhythm section immaculate. Moreover, unlike the sterile sounding "Bed is in the Ocean." Don't get me wrong, "Bed" is a great record, it's just that the guitar tone is too... well... jazzy. I don't know what kind of guitar amps Geoff used on that record, but it often sounds like he's playing through a Polytone or some approximation for maximum "jazz" effect, which gives the guitar a lot of midrange focus but very little in the way of overtones. In many ways, "Unsolved" seems to be a response to the limited sound of that record, a return to the rich atmospheric sound of the first two records with the jazz-influenced playing that marked their catalog from "Bed" forward. While not as rhythmically adventurous as "Some Boots," the last four tracks of "Unsolved" are some of the most gorgeously understated music I've ever heard. If you want a place to start with Karate, I would start here--with headphones.

Karate Unsolved

It's the finest album indeed!


Formed: 1993 in Boston, MA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Karate began in Boston. Geoff Farina (vocals, guitar), Eamonn Witt (bass), and Gavin Mcarthy (drums) formed the post-rock combo in 1993, and within a year had issued the "Death Kit" 7". "The Schwinn" followed a year later; bassist Jeff Goddard also joined up at this point, with Witt moving to second guitar. The band's eponymous full-length also appeared from Southern, and Karate toured aggressively, appearing both domestically and in Europe. In 1997, Witt departed, while Farina, Mcarthy, and Goddard...
Full Bio
Unsolved, Karate
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