Chop, chop: Audio Karate hits a balance between pop-punk and emo.
Chop, chop: Audio Karate hits a balance between pop-punk and emo.

Tsunami Bomb, and Audio Karate

Punk rock is largely a boys-only club, which makes Tsunami Bomb's sexy lead singer, Agent M, something of a novelty. But she's more than that. Though Tsunami Bomb's sound is based on that of the ubiquitous Cali-punk Descendents, the quartet also delivers bouncy ska-punk, Blondie-ish New Wave, thundering hardcore and Black Flag-inspired old-school punk. And Agent M's powerful roar and scalding jets of verbiage hold it all together.

Joining them is Audio Karate, whose latest, Lady Melody, is sharper than a Ginsu knife and tight as a young Dean Martin at an open-bar wedding. Singer-guitarist Art Barrios' gruff vocals are two parts Blake Schwarzenbach growl and one part Tim Kasher groan, and that equals a plaintive howl that's too rough for pop-punk but not caterwauling enough for emo. As with Schwarzenbach's Jawbreaker, Audio Karate is unwilling to sacrifice melody on the altar of chunky ringing guitar textures and angular leads, and as with pop-punk, the production is super-crisp. Unlike pop-punk, though, the arrangements are clever enough to withstand repeated listens, and that makes all the difference.

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