Catch 22, now in their 10th year, has gone through many line-up changes. Permanent Revolution is the first album out of their four full lengths to have the same people as their previous. With that in mind they seem to be coming into their own with this crew. It is a strong album that should be expected from a mainstream ska band.
Permanent Revolution is unique for the ska scene, as it is a concept album all centered around Leon Trotsky, a Marxist theologist and revolutionary of the 20th century. After each song (excluding the prologue and epilogue) is a significant year of Trotsky's life and it follows his life in chronological order. For example Leon Trotsky was exiled to Alma Ata in 1928 with his family and the song Alma Ata (1928) reflects that time. Wikipedia is a good source to find out what happened on the years given.
The album begins with a dark piano piece; something not expected based off their previous works. The piano stops after a couple measures and rolls right into a melodious horn line. The vocals by Ryan Eldred are lower than were in Dinosaur Sounds and they fit in quite nicely. It is an impressive lead-off song with a nice melody, good lyrics, and thoughtful chorus. The second song, The Spark (1902), starts slowly with an interesting bass line that carries the ska and even reggae song to the end. The vocals and horns go hand with hand and is done very well. Towards the end it goes into a powerful hardcore part and returns to the chorus for one last time. It's a catchy chorus, but also a repetitive one because he repeats "When the roots pop up" 8 times at each interval. I personally haven't gotten sick of it yet, but makes you think they could have thought of something more creative.
The Party Song Chorus
Today is the day for tomorrow and then some.
We could keep this party going for the rest of our lives.
The Party Song (1917) has been hinted as their single for the album and for good reason. It is one of the more pop influenced songs on the album, so of course it has a catchy chorus to go with it. The song is really based on the guitar driven chorus and only has a couple small verses. All around great song, but not a song to base the whole album off if you don't like it. Both The Decembrists Song (1921) and A Minor Point (1922) are powerful punk songs. A Minor Point is the better of the two with the more interesting vocals and guitar solo. Back up vocals from Kevin Gunther, the trumpeter, provide an impressive feeling on the verses. The Decembrists Song on the other hand does have one of the catchiest horn lines on the album. The album slows down a bit with the next song, On the Black Sea (1924). It has a smooth flow to it and the vocals are bouncy to fit the pace of a creative ska guitar. Bad Party (1927) starts off with some acoustic and Ryan singing, it quickly sublimates into a punk song with a nice chorus. At some points the lyrics seem off and the horn part is a bit awkward also, but still a decent song. The guitarist shows off his acoustic skills on the next song. Alma Ata (1928) is a graceful song and is different than anything Catch 22 has done before. The horns push the song along, with a classy horn line. A song that will either be disliked or liked for its uncommon sound in the ska scene. Track 9 on the album, The Purge (1936), is one of the best punk songs on the album. Lyrics and vocals take the gold on this song. Ryan keeps a great melody along with great back up singing on Kevin's part. No horns on this one, but doesn't really need them and may have just been a distraction. Second to last song is The Opportunity (1940), another perky nonchalant ska song with accompanying horns and chimes on the chorus. One of my favorites. Leading the way to the end is the Epilogue (obviously). An acoustic reflective song on Leon Trotsky after his death. A nice way to part ways for a concept album.
Kevin said in an interview that the next album was going to be more hardcore than Dinosaur Sounds and his words did not fall short. The album is strong with the punk ska with some well done slower ska songs on the side, leaving for some solid live tracks to be played in the future. One problem with the album is how short it is. Only 11 songs with a run time of 33.5 minutes. The album is produced well with only a couple places coming out a bit uncreative or sloppy; mostly a personal issue. Another issue is the pace and vocals make some songs blend with eachother because of similarities. Positives for the album are the vocals have improved from the last album and are sung on melodies instead of straight forward. Musically the album is top notch. They added some keyboard, vibraphone and even chimes to songs and it doesn't follow the same ole sound us rude boys are used to which is always a refreshing thing. Just about every chorus is a catchy one and will have you singing along in your car. Good mix of punk and ska, and the lyrics are thoughtful and well written. Everyone who is or was a fan of Catch 22 should give it a listen because it will compete with Alone in a Crowd for 2nd best Catch 22 album.