How do you go from being barely a blip on the indie rock radar to encompassing the whole screen? Well, if you're Audio Karate, you write Lady Melody, a sophomore record that is anything but sophomoric. In three short years, this California quartet has written a follow-up to Space Camp that not only surpasses it in sheer talent and emotion, but makes you wonder just what's in the water at the Blasting Room, where the band recorded this disc. While the basis of the group's sound remains the same, Lady Melody sounds like a band reborn.
From the second the record kicks off with "Jesus is Alive and Well (and Living in Mexico)," Audio Karate delivers the rock for 40 straight minutes with a passion undiscovered before now. Singer Arturo Barrios has been studying up on equal parts Jawbreaker and Cursive, as his voice has taken a decidedly gravelly turn. His lyrics, while not as poetic as either band's frontman, are still interesting enough to warrant actually reading the lyric sheet [something I can't say about many bands nowadays]. A running theme throughout the disc seems to be that of love lost, but instead of elaborate metaphors, Barrios cuts right to the point, as seen in "Catch And Release":
"So baby come back to meThe energy runs high in a good majority of the songs due to blazing guitar solos contributed by Jason Camacho. In "Gypsyqueen," unarguably the disc's best track, Camacho's solo slides in effortlessly right as Barrios finishes wailing "but what about the way you keep pretending that you sleep / so sweet / yeah!", taking the song to another level. Camacho's guitar chops are also used in more creative instances, as seen in the title track with multiple guitar effects closing out the song, before throwing the band back into overdrive in "Aim To Please."
and we'll sleep
I'll admit the things you want me to
I won't fuck the girls I wanted too..."
Bill Stevenson once again has produced a gem of a record - his fourth of the year, after the Descendents, Silent Drive, and A Wilhelm Scream - pretty much assuring him "producer of the year" nods from any indie music-oriented website who has such a year-end category. This record is alive and crackling with unbridaled energy. The only production error made is found in "Get What You Deserve Inc.", which contains a wholly out-of-place fade-out at the end of the track, which then inexplicably fades back in before actually ending the song. It's awkward and stunts the flow of the record just enough to warrant a criticism of it.
Other than that, this record is essentially flawless. The songs are well-crafted and a unique take on what melodic punk has been defined as in the past decade, and the passion in the vocals is undeniably infectious. You'll be singing along until your throat hurts as much as Barrios' probably does. And you'll be singing along all year long, too, to easily one of the best records of 2004.
Jesus is Alive and Well (and Living in Mexico)
Ms. Foreign Friendly [clip]