Review Summary: To Life...
At first glance of our bickerings and worries about the day-to-day trivialities that plague our existence in today’s world, one may not be aware that inherently within all humans, (all organisms actually) is a psychology that places the importance of one’s life above all else. Though preservation of one’s life is ultimately the psychological goal of all humans, the inevitability of death leads us to live our lives as strongly as one chooses to within their time on earth. However, the belligerent nature of humans (again, actually all organisms) to protect and serve their territory naturally breeds war. Leaders of the world will often instill fear and a sense of nationalism into their country’s youth to call them to arms in battle.
Here is where the album comes in. Though the world has change drastically since 2001, a theme recurring from The Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution’s Call to Arms will always strike a chord with the listener. Whether it be 10 years, 20 years, or even 100 years the appreciation of one’s life will always be of the utmost importance, and the depravation of life’s opportunity through war will always be viewed as barbaric from World War I forward. A Call to Arms delineates the appreciation of life, and the injustices that plague the average soldier on a day-to-day basis that are corroding and plaguing his precious life.
A Call to Arms could not be a more fitting title for such a work that destroys one’s notions of a “glorious war.” With tracks such as “Here’s to Life” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” it is no secret that this album deals with the value and prosperity everyone deserves within their lifetime. However, as Tomas Kalnoky shrieks “Don’t die for anything less than the best of, everyone settles for the rest not the best of, I will die for no less than the best of life” it is clear that he is pressing a deep fear of an untimely death by the hands of war, and instilling his value of the great experiences that one can have through their life, given the opportunity to live it. The very (albeit ironic) title implies that Kalnoky views this deprivation of life through war as barbaric, unnatural and unfair.
As I mentioned, the title that the band chose is a tad ironic. Clearly their view on war as a juggernaut depriving young men and women at a chance to fulfill their lives' full potential is not aptly expressed in the title A Call to Arms. However, I also feel as though the music is a tad ironic. Since this album centers around the themes of life, and tends to deal with grim topics, it is somewhat unexpected to hear the upbeat horns over a mellow acoustic guitar backing these shockingly grim lyrics. Needless to say, the musical expression of these themes is truly the album's forte. Even without all of the psychological speculation of this piece of art, at its core it is an album that is simply fun to listen to.
Since Tomas Kalnoky (the mastermind behind these 5 songs) was later to move onto his work with Streetlight Manifesto, and had just disbanded from Catch 22, the songs are either heavily similar to the two bands, or are different takes of classics we all know and love. The album opens with the familiar melody from “Here’s to Life” from Everything Goes Numb, but rather than the version we are all accustomed to, the horns are overpowering, with an acoustic guitar in the background, which transitions nicely into “Dear Sergio,” the classic opener from Catch 22’s Keaseby Nights. These then lead into the final two songs. Although “It’s a Wonderful Life” was never a favorite of mine, it is still a wonderful track, and the final track is probably the strongest on the album.
Musically, the album does not disappoint. The horns are a tad overpowering, but as a listener, it sounds very natural. The horns are supposed to be the lead, and should blare a bit. The acoustic guitar ranges from very peaceful and appropriately background, to haunting. In “They Provide the Paint…” the opening guitar line is nothing short of chilling, and in “Intro: A Call to Arms,” the guitar appropriately opens the album with the classic Streetlight melody that we all know. Occasionally, a piano works its way into the mix, providing a frightening aura over an otherwise peaceful scene, and with macabre lyrics such as “Hemingway never seemed to mind the banalities of a normal life, and I find, it gets harder every time, So he aimed the shotgun into the blue, Placed his face in between the two, and sighed, ‘Here's To Life!’ the album does not fall short on a chill of the subject of life. Blend all of this under Kalnoky’s signature raspy vocals, and it is a recipe for a chilling, yet fulfilling album.
With Kalnoky’s carpe diem attitude toward life, it is no surprise to discover that he is not an advocate of war. Even so, A Call to Arms instills Kalnoky's values lyrically, over a fitting horn section and peaceful acoustic guitar. If you are a fan of Streetlight Manifesto, Catch 22, mellow ska-punk, and enjoy their sound with Kalnoky’s vocals, you will be pleased with A Call to Arms. A wonderful ska album if there ever was one, and one of the strongest I have ever heard to date.