Review Summary: Keasbey Nights is a snapshot of a group of guys who just wanted to have fun and write good music and the album reflects that and that's what makes it such a classic and so enjoyable.
Ska was somewhat of a myth to me. I heard people talking about it for a while at my school. Then finally a guy in one of my classes asked me, "You going to ska fest?” The answer was obviously no. So then, I was just browsing on the beloved Yahoo! radio until suddenly an instantly lovable bassline burst out of my speakers. The horns section suddenly came in and I was hooked forever. I soon realized that the song I was listening to would single-handedly open my eyes to a completely new genre. The song is now etched into my mind and happens to be As the footsteps die out forever
by Catch 22.
As the days went on, I started to inquire and gain interest into Catch 22. Then the same guy gave me a copy of Keasbey Nights
to borrow. I plugged it in and so it began. From the almost Mexican sounding crescendo to decrescendo of Dear Sergio
to the honest and anthemic 1234 1234
. Thomas Kalnoky and the gang’s Keasbey Nights
have stamped themselves into the upper echelons of third wave ska greatness (hyperbole is great isn't it). Though Keasbey Nights went largely unnoticed in the mainstream it still resonates in the minds of legions of ska fans today. In many ways it became an underground hit and it still garners a lot of acclaim by people who enjoy ska and even those who don't. It probably didn't produce the impact of Reel Big Fish, Sublime and No doubt did in the mainstream. One could think that if on a major label it could have easily become one of the greatest ska records of the 90's or probably even third wave ska. Every song has everything you would want in a ska album. Energy, hooks, amazing horn section, overall great musicianship and most importantly a knack for great song writing. I deliberately said Thomas Kalnoky and the gang to emphasize that Thomas Kalnoky in a lot of ways is the main musical force behind this third wave ska classic. Thomas Kalnoky was always the glue of the Catch 22 and his absence has been missed ever since he left right after the recording of Keasbey Nights. Ever since then, the boys of Catch 22 have slowly become one of the worst ska groups out today and have had to record crappy concept albums to stay relevant.
Keasbey was the small suburb that Thomas Kalnoky and the guys grew up in. This reflects the album well as Thomas Kalnoky reminiscent of the "good" times at home. Keasbey Nights is a memoir of growing up and coming into your own. Songs like Day in Day out
, This one goes out to...
, Keasbey Nights
, On and on and on
, Dear Sergio
all talk about childhood and his friends. Keasbey Nights is a snapshot of a group of guys who just wanted to have fun and write good music and the album reflects that and that's what makes it such a classic and so enjoyable. This record introduced me to a new genre.
The thing that catches the listener straight away is the amount of amazing energy the band shows on the recording. The recording quality is somewhat of a love or hate affair. Some don’t like it some love it. To me, the recording of the music captures a group of guys who came together and recorded a whole bunch of ska anthems sometime in early 1998 or late 1997. They didn’t care about the fancy aspect and just sticked to what they did best, which is playing feel good ska. This also helps the album sound rawer and less polished. These anthems turned out to be one of the most defining albums of the third wave ska explosion. Anthems being the key word. Every song is so easy to sing along to; Day in Day out
, Dear Sergio
and the amazing title track especially. Thomas Kalnoky offers a fresh new take and style of third wave ska which keeps things interesting. He is also the guitarist of the band and more often than not you won’t really notice the guitars as they take a back seat. Thomas doesn’t really solo which is fine because guitar solos aren’t really required in ska. This is not to say he’s a bad guitarist, in fact he showcases his ability on songs like Giving up Giving in
and 1234 1234
. His contribution (which is huge) is ultimately the X factor of Catch 22. His distinct style is the main reason things remain fresh throughout all the while maintaining the fun and easy going attitude of ska. Keasbey Nights isn't marred by juvenile frat boy songs as much as typical third wave ska is and becomes a turn-off for people.
What distinguishes Keasbey Nights from other records that came out in its day, is its ability to stand on its own as an individual record is great mostly because the band doesn’t rip anyone's style. The originality of it will make people who don't even enjoy ska like Keasbey Nights. Instrumentally the record is top notch across the board. Josh Ansley's basslines are terrific as he lays down some jazzy basslines. Walking away
being one of the prime examples which is the jazziest song on Keasbey Nights, the lyrics deal with a date that slowly fell apart. Drummer Chris Greer bangs the drums with a considerable amount of precision at a frantic pace which is coupled with a surprising amount of skill. The horn section is the best on this akbum, as Kevin Gunther, Ryan Eldred and Jamie Egan all deliver some great horn lines that sting in your head for days to come and they know how to solo as well as they showcase their talent in the amazing instrumental Riding the fourth wave
. Then there’s Thomas Kalnoky’s great, individual voice. He has a special ability to sing really fast but at the same time make the lyrics legible and then he suddenly switches to a normal vocal delivery.
Thomas Kalnoky's voice is somewhat of a strange commodity in the ska scene. It has the phlegm quality that you'd see in a typical hardcore punk band but it possesses a surprising amount of melody in it and his voice compliments greatly with the melancholy and down in the dumps lyrics. Some lyrics are incredibly angsty. Lyrics featuring lines like:
I don't care if you care or if you understand 'cause I'm a little kid and I've got little problems and I don't give a *** if you don't understand because
-Giving up Giving in
He wakes up sad again,
And He wonders when the rain will end.
She'll act like she don't care,
'Cause to her it's just a game, that he plays
His voice gives the lyrics a less of a whiny feel to them. Most of the lyrics are very angsty which is somewhat understandable considering Kalnoky was probably very young when he wrote these songs. But you got to wonder how much Nirvana he was listening to. But what’s so surprising and pleasant about the lyrics is the little hints of maturity that can be found. Keasbey Nights
and Day in Day out
both talk about being an independent person and “standing on your own two feet”, On and on and on
talks about moving on with your life. So theirs a surprising amount of maturity in between all of the glum.
There’s no song on here that can be considered bad unless you’re talking about Kristina she don’t know I exist
. That song is almost too juvenile to be appreciated and sounds like the ska equivalent of Blink 182. Otherwise, every song has something great about it and distinct which makes every song interesting to listen to. The three songs that should be listened to at all costs are Keasbey Nights
, 9mm and three piece suit
and As the footsteps die out forever
. All three are a perfect blend of energy, a sing a long chorus and some fantastic horns not to mention great song writing. 9mm and three piece suit
especially is a short but sweet song. It leans more over to the more punk side of Catch 22 and has some great lyrics that start off talk about living in a punk community to talking about robbing some place. As the footsteps die out forever
is a change in pace but still has some energy to pick up the pace in the middle. The song itself talks about his mom suffering an illness and eventually counting down to her demise and it never ceases to make me sad and it has a somewhat nostalgic feeling. The lyrics are written like a story.
She was diagnosed on a Friday,
The kids were almost home,
The kids were on their way back home from school,
Lying face down in the gutter,
Of unaccomplished dreams, broken memories of things to come.
"Sorry ma'am, I really am. I had to break the news.
I had to make the phone call to tell you that you're due,
You know where, I'll tell you when,
And I suggest you start living these next three weeks the best way that you can
The title track has an incredible amount of energy and features everything that makes this album so great.
If there's an album to listen to from Catch 22 then it would be this one. If you’re looking for an album that is satisfying, full of energy and fun to listen to then you will definitely not be disappointed by Keasbey Nights.