For much of the underground scene, Audio Karate has been of interest to many fans of punk rock, skate punk & pop punk genres alike. They had their moments of fame like when making it on MTV(UK) and playing with bands such as the descendants… But were always on the cusp of becoming something bigger & better, their freshman album “Space Camp” showcases this with full force. The first track off of the album “Rosemead” had ballad-like potential, the drums and guitar in the track are reminiscent of its time in the pop punk sphere. The lyrical content in this song may make you feel like you are reading a love letter to your valentine, while at the same time, the nostalgia may also make you feel a sense of longing and belonging somehow. There are very few albums I can listen to nowadays for the first time without stopping and this track caused me to do so. Much of this album has a track that is as infectious as the track prior in one way or another.
It starts to become melodic with the track “Drama Club Romance”… Here, we notice the signature guitar parts that stand out from many similar bands at the time. It’s like going to the beach and listening to pop punk, the waves pull me in more and more. This song is one of my favorites and more visited tracks for me personally. “Nintendo 89”, the first track I and many others first heard by this band, could have reached ballad status as well. To me, though, it was just that and more. Arguably the track has a My Chemical Romance-like entrance but eventually demanded that I mosh in the comfort of my own home.
The attitude of the album takes a turn from hopeful to heavy in the song “Hello St. Louis”, which could be considered the most surprising song as well. The sporadic and punch-filled bass solo turned into guitar solo parts jumped out at me as something that stood out on this record. It’s a good turning point for the album and could peak your interest(like it did mine) at what is to come in following songs. “Monster In Disguise” plays off of the previous track and adds even more fuel to the fire as the most emotional track on this release. The song seems to be about a bad relationship, though the lyrical content itself could also provide solace to some one feeling isolation and lonliness.
The songs to come may be surprising as the emotion suddenly changes to a more mellow vibe. “Car Ride Home” returns to the punk rock summer vibe that “Drama Club Romance” had, and also is debatably the most poetic song on this record. The music here yells 90’s skate punk and reciprocates that it’s still alive even in the early 2000’s while still being the most surprising track on this album(in my opinion). “Senior Year” continues this fashion and the nostalgia here is so infectious as it is the most child-like song here. “One Day” and “San Jose” were the least exciting tracks to me, they don’t offer much of anything too different but are still fun and catchy nonetheless.
However, the song “Jason” takes a turn in the album holding the place of the last song before the closer on the album. For me, in albums this is where I never know what to expect going into the last two songs. Although, this track specifically serves as the most raw version of the band at their time as frontman Arturo Barrios sings “can’t do this anymore”. The song as a whole is alluring and holds an explosiveness to it that is broad in the best of ways. Finally, we’re at the closing track “T-San”… Here, Arturo sings “so I say goodbye to you”, and to me this serves as a great closer for the album. It became a tearjerker after reading the lyrics in depth considering the heaviness that is so present here.
Overall, this album is one that constantly serves as inspiring and interesting. This record is so fun at any time of the year to me, I can throw it on almost anytime. It’s a gem as well as underground staple that has stood the tests of time, aging very well. Today the album turns 18 years old… So, happy anniversary/birthday to Audio Karate on the album(if you all read this), and congratulations on the more recent release of the incredible album “Malo” ! I am looking forward to whatever this band has up their sleeves next.
Release date: March 14, 2002
Label: Kung Fu Records