Boston’s Karate unraveled the tightly coiled energy of post-hardcore, playing angular riffs with clean, spacious guitar tones and adding a technical precision often intentionally avoided by their scrappier peers. The band’s patient tempos and pensive atmospheres made their first two albums (1995′s Karate and 1997′s In Place of Real Insight) border on slowcore at times, but they later began incorporating a heavy jazz influence into their already heady brew of punk-adjacent styles, adding improvisation and post-rock touches to albums like 2000′s Unsolved. Karate broke up in 2005, but they reunited in 2022 when Numero Group began reissuing their long out-of-print catalog. In addition to re-releasing the albums, the campaign also included the release of the 2022 box set Time Expired, which collected the group’s final three studio albums and a smattering of other miscellaneous or previously unreleased tracks.
Karate was formed in 1993 by guitarist/vocalist Geoff Farina, bassist Eamonn Vitt, and drummer Gavin McCarthy. Shortly after forming, the trio recorded the demo-quality self-released cassette Sometimes You’re a Radio, and then issued several 7″s and their 1995 self-titled debut album. Later in 1995, the band expanded to include Jeff Goddard on bass, with Vitt switching to second guitar. Their sophomore album, In Place of Real Insight, was released in 1997, after which Vitt left the band to pursue a career in medicine.
Once more a trio, Karate’s sound went in new directions from there, first exploring jazz-informed playing and experimentation with song structures on 1998′s The Bed Is in the Ocean, and applying post-rock approaches to 2000′s expansive double-album-length release Unsolved. The band’s interest in long songs and protracted arrangements continued with the 2001 EP Cancel/Sing, a two-song release that clocked in at nearly 30 minutes. Karate produced two more albums, 2002′s Some Boots and 2004′s Pockets, as well as several live albums and one-off projects before breaking up in 2005. In 2007, the posthumous live album 595 was released, capturing what was allegedly the 595th live show of the 694 that the band played between 1993 and 2005, and their favorite.
In 2021, after years of struggling to regain ownership of the rights to their catalog, the members of Karate teamed with Numero Group to begin reissuing the long out-of-print albums. The reissue series began with digital releases of the group’s first single and first two albums, and slowly the other releases followed, as did the 2022 box set Time Expired, which focused on their output between 2000 and their initial disbandment in 2005. In 2022, Karate re-formed to play their first live performances in 17 years. ~ Fred Thomas