With a mixture of jazz-influenced fluidity and nearby noodling, Karate's fourth album delivers dramatic stop/start rock that ebbs and flows and is sparked, at its' best moments, by lost narratives and cutting guitar work. Occasionally it is only the crisp, billowy, unsteady patterns of drummer Gavin McCarthy that remind you that this is not a pop-fusion effort from the late '70s. The unsettling moments and the ever-present tension that make a band like June Of '44 take on the same territory more successfully are replaced by an over-reliance on technical proficiency and shifting time signatures.
Certainly there is some great interplay between the bassist and drummer, resulting in some truly solid rhythms and a pervading sense of anger pops up on "Sever" that attempts to pull the listener in. Throughout the record, Geoff Farina's lyrical asides manage to balance out the pretentious with the tossed-off. Although this release never finds the trio hitting the emotional heights they achieved on their first two albums, Karate and In Place Of Real Insight -- they've managed to expand the breadth of their sound as well as help set the bar a bit higher for musical proficiency in the realm of indie rock.