Saturday, January 13, 2018

Less Than Jake Losing Streak (1996) Review

Less Than Jake "Losing Streak" (1996) Re-Release LP Cover
“Losing Streak” is an album by Less Than Jake that came out in 1996 and it was their major label debut. I was a big fan of ska music at the time, and I was looking to get anything ska related. I would pick up the album after getting their debut, “Pezcore” which I believe was on Asian Man Records. I would eventually get to see them play live with the likes of Reel Big Fish, Rancid, and even Mxpx. The band was great live, and still put on a great show if you ever get to see them. As far as this record is concerned, however, it’s a ska punk record that only has about 35 minutes of music on it. It was recorded in Florida, and was produced by Michael Rosen for Capitol Records. The line up for the band included Chris Demakes, Roger Manganelli, Vinnie Fiorello, Buddy Schaub, Jessica Mills, and Derron Nuhfer. They would put together a mix of ska and punk that truly is reminiscent of the time frame that the release was out of, riding a wave of interest in ska and punk, thanks a great deal to the skateboard scene if you ask me.

More Punk Than Ska At Times


I recall going to record stores and asking if they had a ska section. Most of them said, no, and I would be disappointed because I couldn’t find more records from bands that I loved. They would lump Ska and Punk together, and sometimes they would just have an alternative section. I would eventually remedy this by writing a lot of reviews for record stores and asking them to cater to ska fans, and more. Eventually they did, and now, well, ska isn’t that big a genre, but when I was younger, I was all about it. I’m still in love with the sounds of ska and punk, but for the sake of this review, I will stick to Less Than Jake’s fusion of both. For the record, “Losing Streak”, they focused more on punk at times, with distorted single guitar sounds, and bass guitar that was floating around and walking through a variety of different steps. While the horn section was in place, it was more focused on the three chord progression that you would expect from punk. A punk-core sound would be created here, and though there were horns, it wasn’t as big as say, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Five Iron Frenzy’s focus on horns.

Sing Along With Less Than Jake


For fans of songs that you can sing along with, you’ll love how the band was able to create a lot of different choruses that were just that, sing along style. You could do karaoke to a lot of the songs that they put together on this record. They would eventually release the record with a DVD live performance of the whole album, straight forward. Some of the best tracks that came out on this record include “Automatic, “Sugar In Your Gas Tank”, “Shindo”, “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts”, “Never Going Back To New Jersey”, “How’s My Driving, Doug Hastings?”, “Just Like Frank”, “Dopeman”, and “Jen Doesn’t Like Me Anymore”, all of which are some of my favorite ska and punk tracks, not just Less Than Jake Tracks.

Like Riding A Bike


There are some records that don’t seem to age. They are timeless, they are well made, and recorded with precision. That’s what you get with “Losing Streak”. It’s a record that speaks to the time it was released, but it works so well, even after all of these years. The ethos tied to the lyrics, the horn section, the punk rock elements, and so much more just comes together to form a record that is well worth your time as a whole. When you put this record on, you’ll end up listening to the whole thing, not just a few tracks here and there, that’s for sure. I love the record as a whole, that’s for certain.

I give Less Than Jake “Losing Streak” a 4 out of 5.


With so much praise, you’d think that I would’ve given “Losing Streak” a 5 out of 5. Well, I can’t, as it’s not that long of a record. Not only that, there are a few songs that seem out of place, and are re-recorded from their album, “Pezcore”. That isn’t a bad thing, but it brings them down just one peg if you ask me. Less Than Jake is still going strong, and this record was re-released with a live performance CD and DVD of the whole record, which is fun to watch. I’ve seen them live, and can say that the songs that are on this record hold up well live, and heck, it’s a great example of ska and punk mixed together.

You can purchase Less Than Jake “Losing Streak” by clicking here, and picking up the re-release with DVD and live performances. It’s a great disc, and stands the test of time, if you’re a fan of ska and punk of course.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Nirvana MTV Unplugged In New York (1994) Review

Nirvana "MTV Unplugged in New York" LP Cover (1994)
MTV Unplugged was a series of video taped recordings that were absolutely grand. They would take rock and pop artists and strip down their performances to only acoustic guitars and light piano, etc. Well, in 1994, the mighty folks at MTV put Nirvana into a studio set in New York City, and what would come through is one of the finest records in terms of acoustic music ever. I may be biased, but the nearly 54 minute record is perhaps one of the top 100 records that you should own, even if you’re not a big fan of Nirvana’s other records. This is a record that still holds true in 2018 as it did when it was released in 1994. I for one remember the cassette tape fondly, and now that I’m older, can truly recommend the DVD and vinyl record release of this 5 time platinum record that also pulled a Grammy Award in 1996. Of course, I’m going to be trying to discuss Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” here.

The Not So Acoustic Showcase


This record is supposed to be acoustic, but honestly, it’s not 100 percent. According to the production crew that was there, Kurt Cobain required his acoustic guitar to run through an effects pedal and into an amp, so MTV obliged and created a wedge element that you don’t see on the camera, where his acoustic guitar would run through the amplifier. It’s not a big deal, but if you’re a purist, then you may not like the sound. It doesn’t matter that much, but it’s an interesting note in regard to the way that Nirvana’s music had to be done, especially for this performance.

A Complete Nirvana Experience


Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” consists of 14 tracks, and they are all soft spoken, sung, and focused on the acoustic element of the television show. The band put together a setlist that did not have an encore, even though MTV wanted it. I was only 11 years old when this was filmed, and my parents didn’t want me to watch it when it aired. I did eventually sneak into the living room to see it live, and was blown away by the tracks. I didn’t end up picking up the record until a few years later on cassette tape, then on DVD and vinyl record. The songs that stood out to me then and now includes “Come As You Are”, “The Man Who Sold The World”, “Dumb”, “All Apologies”, and the cover of Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”. The array of songs chosen were not all from their hit records, they were chosen carefully, including the covers, which were done very well. It’s a complete experience of Nirvana, without focusing on the electric hard style that they played. It’s compelling with every note and focused lyrical elements that Kurt Cobain delivers alongside Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl.

Listen To The Whole Thing


People like to pick and choose tracks that they like, and that’s fine. There’s a “singles” mentality that comes with streaming music today, but honestly, if you’re going to listen to an acoustic Nirvana record, then you should really put this on loud, get yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and really listen to the recording. Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” is not an album of just one or two singles, it’s something that should be focused on as a whole. It is meant to be listened to as a complete recording, not just “one” thing. It’s one of those records that people are going to remember for years and years because it encapsulates a time and a place in alternative music that can never return. Nirvana was able to capture the soul of their music, in a stripped down form, which is rare, and altogether amazing.

I give Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” a 5 out of 5.


The rare perfect record is what Nirvana was able to put together here. Recorded in 1993, and released a year later commercially, the band really did something grand. In light of the death of Kurt Cobain, the legacy of the band would be encapsulated with the release of Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York”, and in many ways it should’ve been the last thing you heard from them. Even though they have more live records, box sets, and other releases out there, I still go back to Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” as an essential focused record from the band. It’s truly one of the best records of all time.

You can purchase Nirvana “MTV Unplugged In New York” from 1994 by clicking here, and enjoying what may have been Kurt Cobain’s finest performance, even if it was riddled with difficulties.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Dogwood More Than Conquerors (1999) Review

Dogwood "More Than Conquerors" (1999) LP Cover
Could thirteen tracks of pop punk rock completely change the way that you viewed music from the late 1990s? Probably not, but if you were a fan of the punk rock scene, especially anywhere near San Diego, California, then you knew that there were a lot of bands that were getting a lot of attention in the area. One of those bands was none other than Dogwood. Originally heralded as a Christian punk band, like many others in the scene on Tooth and Nail Records, the band progressed through a variety of different member changes, sounds, and created a unique brand of punk rock that most people don’t even know about. Today, I’m going to be jumping into a time machine to discuss the 1999 release from Dogwood, titled, “More Than Conquerors”. Whether you’re religious or not, you cannot deny that this is one of the best new school punk rock records ever put to compact disc, and yes, I said EVER!

Hit Them In The Mouth


The first track immediately throws you into a change of pace. If you remember the self-titled record from the band that came out in 1998, you knew that the band was on the cusp of something great. The first track is “Suffer” and it immediately throws you into a well-produced, frenetic punk rock sound with vocals that were very similar to what Nofx was doing at the time, only with a little bit more gusto. Josh Kemble’s vocals were a bit deeper than Fat Mike’s, but his delivery was similar, and the focus on the overlay with the music worked very well overall. For this particular recording, the line up was solid, featuring Josh Kemble, Russell Castillo, Sean O’Donnell, and Jason Harper. The four members created a sound that is just incredible overall, and works really well overall.

The band would go through lineup changes, but honestly, this is the key line up for the band. The first two tracks are fast, hard, and go through the lyrical elements that you’d expect from a band that had a religious tone, but without preaching, and it’s quite interesting to see how they put together the tracks and lyrics. Their third track, slowed things down and would be a radio hit for Christian radio, and a bit more for those that were in the Los Angeles area.

Booking The Band


One memorable point of my life is talking to the band on various occasions. At one point I was able to book the band to play a show in Ventura. The band charged me 1800 dollars, and they were going to play with a few of the bands that were on my record label. The promoter and I teamed up to get the show going, and I asked for a merch table. I recall the band played a great show, although they arrived nearly at the point of their set time. They jumped on stage, played some great songs, and eventually ended up not getting enough money. My crew and I ran out before we lost money, and after some time I would get a call from the lead singer. He said that I was supposed to have sent him a large envelop full of money. I never sent it. Oh well. Eventually the church paid them, but it wasn’t on me to pay the 1800, was it? I don’t know. I used to book bands and well was a terrible record label owner and promoter, but there’s my little booking story. I would see Dogwood play at Cornerstone, Chain Reaction, Garden Grove, Festivals, and much more.

A Rollercoaster of Punk Themes


The narrative of the record may initially start with a bit of religious tinge, but there’s more to this record than the sum of the religious parts. It’s hard to separate the band from their beliefs, but once you start to actually pay attention, you’re going to find that the talented foursome work together to build a new school punk level sound that is very much similar to bands you already like. For instance, you’ll find that the drumming matches up with bands like Lagwagon, the bass guitar works well as it does in Bad Religion, and of course the guitar work and vocals are similar to Nofx at various times. In fact, when I was listening to Nofx, I would change it up and listen tot his record as a cousin of theirs musically.

A Complete Album


Some records have singles, some records only have a few good songs, and then there are some records that are complete. You can’t just listen to one track, the entire album has amazing songs, and that’s what you’re going to find to be true about this album. “More Than Conquerors” has a lot of stand out tracks, and it’s easy to just sit in and listen to the whole thing all at once. However, if you’re going to finalize standout tracks, you’d have to listen to songs like, “Suffer”, “My Best Year”, “The Pain is Gone”, “Confusion Zero”, “Left Out Cold”, and “Out of the Picture” as some of the stand outs from this 1999 release.

I give Dogwood “More Than Conquerors” a 4 out of 5.


It’s not perfect, as many records are not perfect, but it has so much going for it that you cannot deny how good the band was in 1999. While others prefer their next record, I suggest starting here, as it is a very well-produced record with lots of punk rock ethos, fast paced music, and incredible distinctive new school punk sound. The band has a controlled chaos, and such talent, that you’re going to want to hear this record twice, it’s that good. Play this in a record store and you’ll have people asking you who they are and where they can pick up the record. It’s that good. Fans of Lagwagon, Nofx, Bad Religion, Pulley, and Propaghandi will love what Dogwood did in 1999, even if they didn’t get the mainstream success that their friends in P.O.D. got. This band still ignites with great punk rock sounds.

You can purchase “More Than Conquerors” by clicking here, and stream it if you’d like through other avenues.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Norma Jean Polar Similar (2016) Review

Norma Jean "Polar Similar" (2016) LP Cover
We are going modern for today’s review. Going back to September 9, 2016, we turn the tables onto Solid State Records famed band of metalcore with Norma Jean’s seventh studio album. The band has gone through some changes in their career as a band, and this record brings forth another line up change. This was the first release through Solid State since 2008, as they previously were signed to other record labels, and released a record in 2013. For the 2016 release, they picked up a new guitarist, Phillip Farris, and they went to the studio to record another metalcore release of epic proportions. Norma Jean “Polar Similar” brings familiar elements to the table, but also drops a ton of new creative processes and it works on a lot of different levels.

Heavy Is The Crown


Norma Jean has been putting out heavy music for a long time. I saw them play Cornerstone 2002 and they rocked the tents with extremes. Their former singer came on stage and wrestled the new singer to the ground as the two were screaming all the way down. I knew even back then that this band was a big deal. With the release of “Polar Similar”, I expected another heavy record, with a lot of basic elements that made them good in the past, but was surprised by the subtle changes. There’s a better production value on the record, with a focus on guitars and drums more than anything else. There’s a big push on the distortion of the guitars, and a little less bass guitar throughout. In place of the bass guitar sound you’d expect, you get a better vocal range, even though there are moments where the bass guitar is left alone to focus in on the melodies that come through, this is a very chaotic guitar fueled record.

Lyrically Complex


There was a time when Norma Jean was a “Christian” band, but honestly, that’s not the way the band has gone forward. Yes, there are Christians in the band, and if you want to label them as such, you can, but the band itself has a much more lyrical complexity than to be considered just a religious act. In fact, you’ll find that there is cussing on this record, and there is a focus on violence, life in general, abusive relationships, and much more. Cory Brandan Putman’s vocals works so well to introduce you to topics that are close to the chest, and bleed through the pages of his lyrics. Meanwhile, Jeff Hickey and Phillip Hickey put on an incredible showcase of heavy guitar work, to the point where John Finnegan’s bass guitar is lost at times. That’s fine, because Clayton Holyoak’s drumming is absolutely stunning. From simple fills here and there to constant start, stop, to break downs, Holyoak’s drumming is a stellar element of what Norma Jean put on tape for this record. I was impressed from the opening signs of “I. The Planet” to the ending riffs of the final track. If you love drums, you’ll love the presentation on this record, as it’s stellar, and absolutely riveting at times.

A Creative Wall of Heavy Music


In my own personal opinion, “Polar Similar” has the treble up too high. I would have loved to hear more bass on the record, but other than that, the tracks all seem to flow together nicely, including some very incredible nods to post-metal, and even mathcore at times. I was surprised by the mix that the band put into this release. It’s definitely a heavy record, but not without melody, and focus on longer progressive elements, and scaled back notation, as well as better overall mixing. The stand out tracks on this record include, “Everyone Talking Over Everyone Else”, “1,000,000 Watts”, “Synthetic Sun”, “A Thousand Years a Minute”, “IV. The Nexus”, and of course the rest of the 50 some odd minute record.

I give Norma Jean “Polar Similar” a 4 out of 5.


It’s not perfect. What can I say? I love what Norma Jean was able to do for this record, and am delighted to see that Solid State Records has the money to put on some incredible metal and hardcore after all of these years of putting great albums out. However, the fault I have for this record is in the bass guitar, and the high treble on certain tracks. Besides that minor complaint, the drumming overcomes everything else, and I’m fascinated by the way that it dives into the melody section, amidst chaotic dueling guitars, and stand out vocal ranges from top to bottom. Norma Jean puts out an eclectic hardcore, and metal record with touches of melody that you’d find with Deftones, and others.

You can purchase “Polar Similar” by clicking here, and stream it if you’d like in other avenues.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Rancid And Out Come The Wolves (1995) Review

Rancid "And Out Come The Wolves" (1995) LP Cover
Today I wanted to go back to 1995, when I was still staying up late on a Friday and Saturday night in order to catch Punkorama television. That show introduced me to a lot of great bands, and one of the bands that I heard from there was none other than Rancid. Rancid is one of my personal favorite bands, and I have seen them play a couple of times in my life, always a fun and great show. The band has a way of putting together some great tunes, and it’s not just traditional punk and ska ethos, it’s a mix of things that makes them great. Well, in 1995 they put out the record, “And Out Come The Wolves”, and it was immediately garnered as one of the best punk rock records in a long time. It has 19 songs and nearly 50 minutes of music. You get a lot of different elements hitting you at the same time with this record, and it’s hard to say “one” thing about it, which is why it’s still one of the best records that you’re going to hear today.

The Bass Playing Stands Out First


The number one thing that always stands out for me about “And Out Come The Wolves” is the bass playing. Matt Freeman on the bass guitar here is incredible. He doesn’t just play the traditional one or two strings, he goes all over the strings and fret board. You’re not going to find a better bass player in punk rock, and he puts down an incredible mix of work. It’s absolutely incredible to hear how he pulls through so many incredible bass lines. Every track has an incredible amount of bass guitar work, so if you’re a fan of bass guitar, you have to listen to this record with the heavy bass tones on. You’ll be surprised by how good Freeman truly is. No other punk record is this good on bass, and I’ll test that against nearly any record you can find. Funk bands may have better bass tone, like that of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but honestly, Matt Freeman puts on a clinic with the bass and punk rock music here.

Two Singers Fills Rancid Out


For those that aren’t long time fans of Rancid, you may think that Lars Frederiksen was always in the band. He wasn’t. However, if you jumped on board with the release of this record in 1995, then you don’t know anything else, because his vocals alongside Tim Armstrong’s are incredible. The two are able to put on great elements of vocalization and create different spectrums of sound. Lars has a stronger vocal while Tim has a laid back drawl that works well. Both work together to create a symbiosis of sound that you are not going to find with a lot of other bands in the same genre. This is a great duality that makes some of the tracks just stand out completely.

A Track listing Full of Amazing Singles


Only three official singles were published with this record, but I don’t think of this record in terms of singles. I liked so many tracks on this, that you are going to have a hard time isolating just “one” favorite or one that I felt was a single. Now, there was a big rush to play some songs on MTV and KROQ radio in Los Angeles, so of course those are within the realms of my favorites, but aside from those, you’ll find that there are so many stand out tracks, including one that reminds me of a friend that committed suicide in college. Some of the stand out tracks to me from “And Out Come The Wolves” include, “Roots Radicals”, “Time Bomb”, “Olympia WA”, “Junkie Man”, “Rubo Soho”, “Daly City Train”, “The Wars End”, “As Wicked”, “Avenues and Alleways”, “Old Friend”, and “Listed MIA”.

Hitting Mainstream Without Selling Out


I recall a lot of people talking about selling out in the punk rock scene. Bands like Green Day, The Offspring and even Bad Religion were being called sellouts because they had signed with major record labels. However, I never thought that was fair. Rancid was a great band, and still is for the most part. They have remained one of the long time bands to stay with Epitaph Records, and maintained a sense of style and approach to their music that many other bands abandoned in the 1990s. The band’s record went gold at the time, and had independent distribution, and was definitely one of the coolest things to hear about punk at the time. Rancid, Green Day, The Offspring, all got mainstream success, but out of the trio of bands, Rancid seemed to be the one that stayed away from the courtship of mainstream record labels, which was something that is interesting to consider overall.

I give Rancid “And Out Come The Wolves” a 4 out of 5.


I don’t think that “And Out Come The Wolves” is a perfect record. It has some misses for me, but with so many tracks, and a production value that is near perfect, it’s a solid 4 out of 5 to this day. It was originally released in 1995, and it still sounds crisp, and sounds like it was just released. There’s so much great elements to this record, including the great bass playing of Matt Freeman, and the guitar work of Lars and Tim, coupled with the sing-along melodies that make punk rock so great. Overall, this is a record of great precision punk rock. Rancid plays traditional punk rock with a twist, and this record shows off their great talent.

You can purchase “And Out Come The Wolves” from Rancid by clicking here, and of course get the LP vinyl edition if you’d like. Or you can stream it, I don’t care, it’s up to you.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Lagwagon Double Plaidinum (1997) Review

Lagwagon "Double Plaidinum" (1997) LP Cover
One of the earliest punk rock bands that I personally loved to listen to when I was a teenager was Lagwagon. I first got their record “Hoss” when I traded a CD Player for it and a skateboard. This was back in 1996 or 1997, but either way, I got the record, “Hoss” which was quite good overall. But I didn’t hear a lot from the band because I was busy collecting a lot of other records at the time. However, I did cycle back to Lagwagon later in my collecting, and would eventually pick up the vinyl edition of “Double Plaidinum”. This album came out on August 12, 1997, and it was released on the Fat Mike owned Fat Wreck Chords. The line up was Joey Cape, Chris Flippin, Jesse Buglione, Dave Raun, and Ken Stringfellow, and the album was produced by Angus Cooke.

A Specific Sound of Punk Rock


It’s easy to label this band punk rock, but in a way that Nofx was labeled new school. Lagwagon’s sound on “Double Plaidinum” is very specific. The reason is because Joey Cape’s vocals are very distinct. You do not hear a lot of bands that sing the way he does, and therefore you know the band when you hear them. The lyrical components are also not brash, and they are not going to hit you in the head with a message, but rather they are true to life. They are poetic, and they reach into the annals of regular life, and just talk to regular topics that you’d expect. From missing friends, to dealing with relationships, and much more. It’s all relatable stuff, and there’s no first in the air on this record. I would say that this is kind of what Mxpx was doing throughout their second and third releases, just talking about “Life In General” so to speak.

31 Minutes of Polished Punk


People sometimes made fun of me for liking Lagwagon because of how well produced their records are. They aren’t the most raw and guttural band in the world. They don’t have to be, they are solid, practiced a lot and come across very well in the studio. If you’re a fan of pop punk, then you’ll love the way that Joey Cap and crew put together songs that have fast production values, and killer drumming. The drumming is quick, and likened to the new school era of punk from the late 1990s, and the guitar work is all simple, and distorted, but without going too hard on the distortion pedal. It’s a bit reserved at times, just enough to give you speed and resonance, while shadowing the bass guitar and drums which are in tune a great deal of the time. The stand out tracks on “Double Plaidinum” include the opening track “Alien 8”, and then follows up with some killer tunes including, “Making Friends”, “Unfurnished”, “Confession”, “Smile”, “Failure”, “To All My Friends”, and of course the several acoustic versions that are part of the re-release.

Non-Offensive Punk Lyrical Elements


From the opening lines of “Alien 8” to the last lines of “To All My Friends”, you’re going to find that Lagwagon is not going to offend you. They aren’t going to make your mom think twice about what you’re listening to, and for some people they are forgettable. They play a simple form of punk rock with Joey Cape’s precision vocals, and interesting drumming alongside Jesse Buglione playing the standard punk rock bass lines you’d expect from a band coming off of Fat Wreck Chords in 1997. I don’t hate it, but you should know that this is not The Sex Pistols, Total Chaos, or even Bad Religion. To some, this is not punk rock because it’s a bit more laid back, and really doesn’t create a compelling brutality or gutter punk ethos, it’s a bit more akin to Descendents to be honest.

I give Lagwagon “Double Plaidinum” a 4 out of 5.


Even though the record is only 31 minutes long, it feels like it drags in the middle. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it, and it doesn’t mean it’s a bad album. In fact, I listened to it twice in a row just to review it here, and the second time it really weighed heavy on me. The lyrics of Joey Cape really speak to various aspects of life today as they were in 1997, and it’s a time tested follow through that makes Lagwagon’s records such a joy to listen to. Lagwagon did well with this release, and they are a staple of my playlists for quality drumming ,interesting lyrical elements, and great production.

You can purchase “Double Plaidinum” from Lagwagon by clicking here, and picking up the preferred vinyl LP edition. Or you can stream it, I don’t care, just make sure that you don’t miss out on this stellar release from 1997.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Audio Karate Space Camp (2002) Review

Audio Karate "Space Camp" (2002) LP Cover
The last show I booked when I had a record company in 2001 featured the line up of The Discarded, Audio Karate, Rudiger, and Engraved. It was held at Chain Reaction in Anaheim California, and none of my friends went. I had to beg my mom to drive me, and had to leave one of the members of Engraved in charge of the show. For the night’s work, and crowd that basically all left after Audio Karate finished playing, I made a whopping eighty-four dollars. The Discarded went on last, and there was only 3 people in the audience.

The Discarded, I had hoped would sell out Chain Reaction, really put on a terrible showcase, yet they released a vinyl 7-inch record of the live performance, and despite my lack of understanding and precision as well as business acumen, the band went on to do a lot of great things without any influence from me. However, I did manage to book them to a very large audience at Reject 37 Fest, but hey, that’s just me bragging about nothing. At the show, I found Audio Karate, and immediately loved their work. I picked up their record in the summer of 2002, their debut for Kung Fu Records, which was released on May 14, 2002. Their debut was called “Space Camp”.

An All Mexican Punk Band


One of the interesting things that attracted me to the band was that the members were all Mexican. I was a Mexican punk living on the west coast of California, and didn’t have any Latino friends that were into punk rock or any heavy music. So, I had to just enjoy this. I recall when I first got “Space Camp”, I introduced it to my friend and his girlfriend, a girl that I personally asked out first, but hey, that’s old news, right? They are happy together, I’m sure. Either way, I brought the CD and they didn’t seem to really like it, and I know why. Audio Karate’s debut record isn’t heavy on the bass guitar, it’s got a lot of treble, and the vocals shine above the rest. The guitar work is good, the bass playing is great, and the drumming of course showcases a mix of punk rock and other elements. However, you’re going to find that it’s not resonant as a lot of other bands from the time.

A High School Diatribe


The lyrical content of “Space Camp” is akin to a high school journal. All of the lyrics and songs speak to life as a teenager, and someone that is in high school, which isn’t a bad thing. Mxpx did the same thing with “Life in General”, which is a great record too. But while Mxpx has a deeper balance between bass and treble, Audio Karate is a much different pop punk outfit. You’ll find that this is a good record, mind you, it just doesn’t have that deep resonating element that was commonplace within the line up of Kung Fu Records in the early 2000s.

Forty Minutes of Pop Punk Goodness


This is a stellar debut, with 12 tracks that just work well together. The tracks that really stand out on “Space Camp” include “Drama Club Romance”, “Nintendo 89”, “One Day”, “Senior Year”, “Hello St. Louis”, and “Jason”, just to name a few. This is a great overall starting line for those that haven’t heard of Audio Karate. It’s a good record from Kung Fu Records and something that really points towards my past, as I graduated high school and started a lonely walk towards a life away from the friends I had in high school. It was a weird time for me, and this record reminds me of those times. Arturo Barrios’ lyrical elements relate to me today, as much as they did back then.

I give Audio Karate “Space Camp” a 4 out of 5.


Yes, this record gets another great score from me. I am not going to put out bad reviews often, because I love all of the records that I purchase. Whatever the case is, "Space Camp" is a great punk rock album with a lot of upside. It’s going to speak to your angst, and will remind you of high school and more. It’s a solid punk rock gem from the 2000s.

You can buy Audio Karate “Space Camp”, and see what it was like to be a teenager in southern California, etc. You can click here to pick it up.

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