Cashing In Karma are a three-piece alternative rock band from the Tacoma-Seattle area in Washington State. The band began back in 2015, formed by founding member Jonny Barrett and they recently reformed in 2018 with Marco Diez and Dave Bugg. Their music is influenced by American rock bands such as Queens Of The Stone Age and Foo Fighters, along with British bands like Muse and Royal Blood, amongst many others.
This seven-track EP, Down The Rabbit Hole, is the first fruits of their labours since their reformation. Opening track Liar, Liar establishes their musical style immediately with Jonny Barrett’s powerful lead vocals bringing to mind Conor Mason from British alt. rock band Nothing But Thieves. You can also pick up the influence of mid-period Arctic Monkeys in the exotic chord changes and dynamics.
Lyrically, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this song is about the dreaded Donald Trump: “Our eyes are set on a new horizon but you tell us to say goodbye to it all, and go about your plans. And no children’s cries, no island’s pain would be enough for things to change.” The concise Led Zeppelin-drenched guitar solo added a nice little extra flavour.
Second song Yesterday Didn’t Work is also political in theme, this one dealing with the difficult issue of immigration and governmental racism: “You’ve heard of freedom and of peace and opportunity but your colors don’t fit, so you really don’t get any of it for free…”. Musically, it’s a divine marriage of The White Stripes with AM-era Arctic Monkeys, where the songs are often built around riffs. The meaty main riff of this song stands up with the best rock bands around and works well in tandem with the lead vocals.
Here I Stay swaps the political for the more personal, this one about a relationship that has gone south: “I don’t know what broke or fixed inside your barren mind, but the things that you don’t tell me are what eat you from inside….”. It’s one of their most instantly memorable choruses, aided by the vocal harmonies that feature throughout. Like the best rock bands, they combine hard-hitting sound with strong melodies.
Good Enough seems like a thematic continuation and dissection of the same problematic relationship, the chorus trying to find emotional resolution: “If I show you my worst and you show me yours, I only hope it’s good enough.” It’s another track that shows their fine songwriting sensibilities, equally able to flit from broader subject matter like political issues to the intimate and vulnerable aspects of being human.
Fifth track Folie a Deux again shows their gift for blending gritty riffs with insightful lyrics on the vicissitudes of romantic relations: “If we could see outside of ourselves, would we just call our love a Folie à deux? And what would we do?”
The following B.S.D. shows both some of their heavier influences with some monster Muse-on-PCP guitar riffs, and lyrically shows a more humorous side with a cuttingly satirical depiction of a soulless money-obsessed alpha male type: “Big Swinging Dick walks into the room to hunt some elephants, best in the room and it’s so clear to see….”.
Final track The Sound ends the EP on a high note, and it’s not only where we get the EP title but it’s a powerful song lyrically, about how artists/bands are pushed to the sidelines: “Did you forget about the artists making things for you?” It’s also a very inspiring message about how important music is itself: “You need it to set you free from all the mundane little miseries…”. It culminates in a blazing guitar solo, which reiterates the point of the track rather nicely.
Overall, this is a very strong set of songs that is essentially a short album at seven tracks, and a good one. The range of Anglo and American musical influences that have informed their music means they have a deep well of inspiration to draw from and it has resulted in a distinctive style all of their own. A natural gift for melody and lyrical versatility are also virtues that will help Cashing In Karma make a strong impact on the alternative rock scene. A rabbit hole well worth going down.
VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10