Review Summary: Keasbey Night is a universal, powerful piece not to be missed by any fans of music. It's a rare ska album that transcends the genre and is great on its own.
It’s tough to be a fan of ska music. On the one hand there are the critics, who rip the party-fueled genre of ska - a term for a brassy, syncopated, hooky style of music - as inane and insubstantial. On the other hand, there are the hardcore “skanks” who will overwhelm you and scare you away from the genre with their near-violent dedication and appreciation. Especially if you see them at a concert.
And yet, trapped between these two extremes are a few really good bands and albums. Good, heartfelt, powerful music is universal. Regardless of your views towards the genre, there is some ska that should earn your respect on its own terms.
Catch 22’s debut, Keasbey Nights, is an example of music that you should not judge based on the movement it is a part of, but as a collection of excellent songs presented with tremendous impact. Give the album a chance, a few listens, and you’ll find a mesmerizing album.
From beginning to end, Keasbey Nights is a provoking look at troubled adolescence. Tomas Kalnoky, the primary songwriter on the album, comes across as a bright kid who can't understand why he’s depressed. Each song here is a bit of perspective into Kalonky's world and mind. From this comes violence, loneliness, bitterness, vulnerability, and more.
To back up this introspection is instantly memorable music. The band has no hesitation to layer catchy hook upon catchy hook. There is no inhibition and self-consciousness; you can tell each member of the band puts their all into every song. And yet, each song is paced and carefully planned. Once the groundwork is laid, the band goes nuts with it. The fast and loud parts are relentless, the slow and quiet parts are tender.
All of this is good in theory, but would be nothing without good songs to back it up. Fortunately, Keasbey Nights shines here, too: nearly every track is a bit of brutal honesty set to high-energy melodies. The title track is the most famous track, and reasonably so. The contemplation of self-inflicted violence has a chorus that will be in your head for months. Nothing is filler, though: Supernothing is masterful self-deprecation, Riding the Fourth Wave is a nice improv number, Day In Day Out a bitter cry of independence, etc.
The real cornerstone of the album is the final track, “1234 1234.” A line like “There’s more to you, there’s more to life, there’s more than meets the eye” might feel cliche on a lesser album. With the thirteen tracks that precede it, though, it’s instead an insight. Furthermore, the riff from “1234 1234″ is emblematic of the irresistible hooks that fill this album.
If you insist upon viewing the album through genres, you’ll see a lot of ska and punk (with bits of jazz and Latin). The variety works well: the sound is never as grating as punk, nor as subdued as the old reggae ska. The solos, while solid, aren't virtuosic. They nonetheless give the album a spontaneous feel.
Ultimately, the pieces of Keasbey Night come together to form an outstanding album. Good music needs an emotional core to give it substance, and heartfelt lyrics need strong music to make them memorable. Keasbey Nights does this with skill.