Catch 22 - Keasbey Nights (Cover Artwork)

Catch 22

Keasbey Nights (1998)

Victory Records

Over the years, Catch 22’s Keasbey Nights has taken on sort of a mythical peculiarity for various reasons, partially because it was re-recorded by Streetlight Manifesto a few years later with a few changes. Despite having somewhat of a raw sound, the original Keasbey Nights is a classic third wave ska album that clearly stands out amongst the various different ‘90s ska-punk releases.

This album was an anomaly from the start. It was the band’s first and only release with original members. Though the band self-released a demo prior to signing to Victory Records, which was primarily a hardcore label. And take one look at the back cover of the cd and it’s hard to imagine that those 6 guys could produce such raw, passionate ska-punk (don’t judge a cd by it’s back cover, right?) And while it was never really a mainstream album, the songs had a mainstream appeal without sacrificing any punk ethos or morals.

The band paid tribute to 2-tone ska in both look and sound, but the wide array of styles on this album combined for a truly unique sonic approach, despite the massive influx of horn driven ska-punk in the mid-late ‘90s. It was an album that drew influences from various musical backgrounds including jazz improv, baroque melodies, and ska-punk in the same vein as Operation Ivy. But what really caught my attention when I first heard it 20 years ago was Tomas Kalnoky’s vocals. I loved how he packed so many syllables into one line. And I loved how he sang in two different registers throughout the album, which really stood out when it was done within the same song (see “supernothing” or “as the footsteps die out forever”). Because of this, the songs seemed heartfelt and impassioned. Combine that with  memorable horn melodies, the warm onslaught of the fretless bass, the rapid snare ping, and harmonic singing on most songs, and you have a near perfect collection of songs.

After two decades, it’s tough for me to say if it’s all simply nostalgia. This is one of those albums that I remember where I was when I first heard it. And I’m not sure if it was purely a Jersey thing, but all of my friends loved this album when it first came out. And none of my friends were punks. From the opening horn crescendo on “dear sergio”, to the catchy chorus of “keasbey nights”, to the whoas on “12341234”, there are countless memorable moments on this album. After 20 years, it is still one of my favorite albums from start to finish.