Of All The Strange Things

Written by: AP on 17/05/2009 16:36:41

My first acquaintance with Karn8 came when the band was invited to play at the alternative/rock night at the university pub. The band's guitarist/bassist Neil Bones told me to tone down the balls-to-the-walls metal in the end of my DJ set because they wanted it to flow neatly into their QOTSA-inspired, old school blues rock. I gave them "Shogun" and faded it out to find that the rock society had booked a band too good for this venue and for this night. You see, it's hard not to feel sorry for whatever band agrees to perform at Subliminal (the alternative night in question) when most of its attendees prefer to sit in booths and converse over a few pints and find the live band a bit of a nuisance - with the exception of not more than ten society members who faithfully stand in front of the tiny stage to show their respect to whatever bucket of shit may have been booked for that time.

Karn8, on the other hand, along with Bury Tomorrow, is one of the most hard-working and professional acts to have come out of Hampshire for years. Their relentless touring and yes-saying to just about any shabby gig at derelict pubs has earned them a loyal fan base and respect in the local music scene. And armed with a debut album like "Of All The Strange Things" that should come as no surprise. Raindrops and wind battering the window and a glass of whiskey provide the perfect backdrop to describing what this female-fronted band is about: songs that snail along in a predominantly slow tempo as delivered by an assembly line of tasty bass licks, textured with subtle guitar melodies (as well as the occasional heartfelt solo) that nonetheless tend to drown in the thick bass mix. I suspect this is intentional though, given Bones' dual role (originally a bassist, and now handling the guitar duties in live shows) and the mix is layered so as to give the guitars an omnipresence which, were it not there, would instantly shine through as an absence of something vital.

"Of All The Strange Things" is an excellent display of gritty rock music and to be perfectly frank, despite it falling outside my area of expertise, it's impossible to put a finger on anything decidedly bad here. Where it succeeds most prominently is in the tone and character of just about every song. Close your eyes and you'll find yourself lying on your back in a rye field, sipping a glass of bourbon, reminiscing about the good old days. Much of this owes to Kirst's sexy, Southern-tinged vocal performance, which gives the album its sleazy, laid back attitude that probably owes as much to the old school punk mentality as it does to country rock legends like Johnny Cash. All this sounds like mere name-dropping of course, but it's necessary to convey the hugely eclectic nature of Karn8's music. And yet despite the wide spectrum of influences the album maintains its focus (though it should be pointed out that the intro track, "Wasteland" and its reprise towards the end of the album do sound out of place with their psychedelic, mystical air).

In my experience, rarely does the debut album of a local band deserve as much credit as Karn8's first born. It by no means reinvents the wheel, but with a repertoire of influences as broad as theirs, the band has successfully created a full-length that, although never jaw-dropping, completely avoids the boring with its quirky and playful nature. There's enough diversity (such as the occasional outbursts of straight-out rock n' roll - check out "Where The Fires Play", for instance) to satisfy even the most nit-picking critics and yet the band is able to maintain a unified sound, which, in the coming years, may well be referred to as the distinctly Karn8 sound. So pull out a bottle of whiskey and a pack of cigarettes if you like, slide this disc in and let yourself be seduced by the sly provocateur that is Karn8.


Download: Running Free, Old No. 7, True Face, Where The Fires Play

For the fans of: Alice In Chains, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Queens Of The Stone Age

Listen: Myspace

Release date 13.02.2009

Wicked Boy

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