Bike Tuff - Kamea (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Bike Tuff

Kamea (2016)

Between the days records

Reviewing Bike Tuff took me a little out of my comfort zone. I usually stick to punk and thrash bands that I can easily compare to other things in my record collection. I don’t really have anything else that sounds too much like Bike Tuff. That being said, I’ve definitely come to appreciate Kamea. It required repeated listens to take it all in, but now I’m hooked. (I believe the scientific term is that it’s a grower not a shower.)

I felt like it was important for me to cover this record for a couple of reasons. First, the Kalamazoo, MI quartet has become a fixture in the regional punk scene. This is Bike Tuff’s second LP, and it feels like a significant release. Second, I don’t want to be the bitter old punk who refuses to listen to any band formed after 1995. In my mind, I know that there’s lots of good newer stuff out there, but every year it gets harder to care.

The thing that scared me about Bike Tuff was the use of the word emo to describe their sound. I was a bit nervous when the opening track, “Ride Alone”, started out with a mellow guitar intro. Fortunately, after about 20 seconds it really kicked into gear. While many of the songs deal with failed relationships, they never get too sappy. They play songs about lost love and friendship without getting too wimpy. There’s a lot going on here both musically and lyrically, and the songs unfold a little more with each spin. The vast majority of Kamea is pretty fast, with only the occasional slower interlude.

I have a soft spot for the songs with dumb titles like “Does Whiskey Count As Beer?” and especially “Cecil Fielder Didn’t Have to Take This Shit, and Neither Do I”. (For those of you who don’t know, Fielder was the rotund, power hitting first baseman for the early 90’s Detroit Tigers.) I hear little bits of things that are familiar to me. Maybe some Descendents, Hot Water Music or Against Me!. Shouted lead vocals, lots of gang backing vocals and a noodling second guitar. The album’s closer, “Bad Ink”, might be its strongest track. It’s a breakup song with a catchy chorus that’s guaranteed to get stuck in your head. You’ll be singing it to yourself as you go put the next record on.

I had my 15 year old daughter listen to this with me. I figured it’s closer to what she normally listens to than my geriatric punk LP’s. She said it’s catchy and has good riffs. Bike Tuff and Kamea officially get two thumbs up from two generations of the Trauma family.