As I open the album booklet to the first page, I can't help but notice the inside disclaimer: "There is absolutely no way of explaining the existence of the record you now hold in your hands without somehow offending, infuriating, confusing or alienating certain parties, so we won't even try. Please enjoy this for what it is."
"What is it?," you might ask. It is a complete re-recording of Catch 22's 1998 album of the same name. Originally, the album brought a breath of fresh air with its rough-edged, raw stylings to a scene that was viewed as stale and played out. With its success it brought Catch 22 national recognition and placed them among punk/ska's elite. However, this is 2006 and the question is: Why was this done in the first place, and more importantly, is it worth buying?
Though it can be debated whether or not Catch 22's breakout success and notariety was due to frontman Tomas Kalnoky's unique vocal stylings or the band's musicianship, there is no debate that Kalnoky wrote the words and music to Keasbey Nights. Having parted ways with Catch 22, Kalnoky started Streetlight Manifesto, a becon of light to long-time fans who missed the live intensity and fun of Keasbey-era Catch 22. It seems that evidence as to why this was released can be found at the album's close during the end of "1234 1234." The shoutouts from the original version have been replaced with a weird computer-generated voice talking about the album. It doesn't take too much effort to realize who is being talked about. It is inferred that Keasbey Nights would be re-released untouched sonically, including simply new artwork and other insignificant add-ons.
Upon playing the disc for the first time, the familiar opening of "Dear Sergio" rings through clearer and sharper than ever. It takes only moments to notice a great difference in production quality from the brilliant sound of the Streetlight horn section. The songs sound much tighter without losing the "rough-edged" sound of the original. Kalnoky's trademark growl is back, only with better annunciation, thankfully allowing for dicernable lyrics this time around.
As far as differences go, they arrive in subtle changes that fans of the original as well as Keasbey "virgins" will enjoy, from an extended verse on "Dear Sergio" to brilliant tempo and rythm section changes on "Riding the Fourth Wave," to a much more impressive horn sound that showcases Streetlight's abilities with dynamic and stylistic flare that was vacant from the original.
In closing, the emphasis is definitely on the music, which is apparent by the sparse artwork and simple, typewritten lyrics. Without question, this is the version to pick up if it is not already part of your collection. For those wishing to remenisce and party like it's 1998, this album is worth picking up. Like its original release, this album breathes fresh air for those looking for refuge from the humdrum predictability of the pop-punk landscape.