Out of step with a scene that spent nearly a generation growing on land tilled by teenaged punks down in D.C, Karate still found ways to make their subtle and serene passages land with all the intensity that animated their peers’ work. While Karate established themselves as a legitimate mover in Boston music, they simultaneously anchored themselves in a bustling nationwide movement ossified through small record distributors and zines with hundreds or thousands of readers. And what better way to do that than partner with some pals on a split 7”, a rite of passage for ’90s punks both broke and unknown—more often than not, they were usually both. In 1996, Karate issued two such records with friends within their tight network. They leaned into their slowcore proclivities on “The Schwinn” for a split 7” with The Lune, a Boston band that would soon supply Karate with a bassist: Jeff Goddard. On “Cherry Coke,” Karate amplified their seasoned splendor with a melodic thrush muscular enough to rattle rib-cages, a perfect pairing for the record they released with The Crownhate Ruin, a D.C. post-hardcore unit that specialized in coiled acidity; that 7” came out on Art Monk Construction, an overlooked purveyor in an early form of the sound occasionally called emocore. “Cherry Coke” articulated the molten messiness every other emo band at the time struggled to make sense of, and Karate’s sloshing rhythms and bristling riffs did a better job of dusting up loud-quiet-loud dynamics than any faceless alt-rock act flogged on corporate radio. “The Schwinn” and “Cherry Coke” captured the band’s enigmatic majesty from different angles, showing that Karate could further explore their omnidirectional whims while firmly maintaining their place in punk. And the emo ecosystem that would surface in the mainstream within a few years grew in part because of Karate, a band whose unclassifiable catalog illuminated any scene it touched.
- Karate Cherry Coke
- Karate The Schwinn