Karate High School - Arcade Rock (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Karate High School

Arcade Rock (2006)


So, what do you want first? The good news, or the bad? Let's just get this bull by the horns, I'll give you the bad news first.

Arcade Rock, by Karate High School, is cliché in every possible sense of the word.

There, now you know. And the good news?

For the most part, it's really rather enjoyable.

There's so many ingredients here that make for an exceptionally cliché attempt to latch on to, what I hope is the dying "faux emo/screamo" fan headed by such offenders as From First to Last and Senses Fail. Having the potential to worsen things for the band is the sporadic inclusion of synthesizers. But, in some modern musical miracle, a lot of these songs are actually pretty damn good. It defies logic, yes, but here I sit shaking my head and tapping my foot to the rhythms, and not feeling particularly inclined to pop the disc out of the drive. That's a victory in itself.

What makes this record float is the cohesion between the band members. Despite being yet another band doing pulling the whole sing/scream dynamic, they're both done well, and done tastefully. Hard as that may be to believe, it can be done. The singing is on key, and works fluidly with the rhythms of the songs, and the screaming doesn't feel as forced as with most bands doing this sort of thing. Most surprisingly, though, is how un-obnoxious the synth parts sound. Like the screaming, it's used only when needed, and only when it can really contribute to the ebb and flow of a given track. The bouncy "Another Day at the Office" starts out with some jagged riffing and light electronic sprinkles, before ushering in an extremely strong chorus that sweeps the song through the rest of its duration. "Smile, You're on TV" has a bit harder of an edge, but it's able to retain some of the same melody that previous songs had displayed.

All of that said, it's still far, far away from being a great album. They do a lot right, but there's songs on here where the band does fall flat on their faces. Look no further than "Scenes Rushing By" for proof of this claim. The slow moving song with an acoustic backdrop does well to expose the fact that when going beyond the three-and-a-half minute mark, the band lacks ability to hold interest. That's the drawback of their very formulaic songwriting. When it works -- it works, but there's always the heavy possibility of things falling flat, as it does with this particular track, and 3 or 4 others.

Regardless of the shortcomings, and there are a decent number of them, I find myself enjoying this more than not. It's trite, it's cliché, and it incorporates nothing not heard a hundred times before, and it's still able to come out more positive than negative, and there in lies the charm.