After punk, what? The conventional wisdom is that musical rebels usually cash in, becoming more accommodating both musically and philosophically. But there are many paths to follow after the two-minute, three-chord song loses its appeal, as new albums from Karate and Wolf Eyes demonstrate.
Originally known as an emo-punk band, Karate has dabbled in both experimental rock and traditional jazz. The latter is the larger influence on "Pockets," the Boston trio's engaging new album, the sixth of its 10-year career. Such song titles as "Cacophony" must be ironic; this is smooth, meticulous music whose supple rhythms and lyrical guitar passages -- including duets with guest player Chris Brokaw on two songs -- suggest a cross between Steely Dan and Luna. Unlike most rock-rooted musicians, singer-guitarist Geoff Farina knows how to stretch out without simply repeating himself; the album's two longest songs, "Water" and "Concrete," ramble inventively. Indeed, the entire album makes a strong case for punk veterans expanding beyond their initial styles.
Michigan's Wolf Eyes could hardly be more different, except that the group shares Karate's yen to make music unlike that of its peers. On "Burned Mind," the trio's Sub Pop debut, founder Nate Young and his cohorts flip death-metal over, burying the vocals and guitar and abstracting the aggression. Such tracks as "Stabbed in the Face" and "Black Vomit" are definitely not easy listening, but they're less conventionally confrontational than their titles suggest. Wolf Eyes' bleats, howls and grinding noise are set in great pools of silence, giving the band's sound a contemplative quality -- demonic din with a Zen aesthetic.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Sunday at Warehouse Theater. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Karate, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8106; to hear Wolf Eyes, press 8107. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)