When most people hear of ska, they think of it as watered down punk. With this thought, they are not far off. Most ska consists of the usual punk lyrics of apathy and whatnot. Though, contrary to what anybody would ever think to find in a punk band, a horn section is included. Because of this stereotype, few people take ska seriously, but if they were to listen to Keasbey Nights by Catch 22 (or any Tomas Kalnoky project for that matter), they may give a second thought to this inclination.
Tomas Kalnoky, the lead singer/lyricist/guitarist of Catch 22 for this album was born in Prague before moving to Greece and then America at the age of four. He grew up in the lower class suburb of Keasbey, New Jersey. It’s evident that growing up in this lower class had a great influence on Kalnoky’s writing style. Most songs are about Kalnoky’s friends, or lack thereof. These influences mixed with ability to write a catchy-as-hell chorus make Keasbey one of the top lyrical masterpieces of the ska genre.
It’s quite a contrast to hear Kalnoky’s somewhat-melancholy lyrics sung to the fast paced music played by his band. One great example of this is the chorus of the title track. The song is about getting caught up with the wrong people and facing the consequences of making them mad. Kalnoky sings:
“When they come for me/I’ll be sitting at my desk/With a gun in my hand/Wearing a bulletproof vest/Singing ‘My my my/How the time does fly/When you know you’re going to die/By the end of the night’”
Despite hearing him (and the rest of the band shouting in the background) sing about death, the listener can’t help but feel the desire to dance and sing along. Likewise, Dear Sergio
is premier opener musically, also making you want to get up and dance, but a glance at the lyrics make it seem like a third-person view of Keasbey Nights
Kalnoky also writes some great lyrics about being true to oneself and being an outcast. One example is in Day In Day Out
where he sings:
“In my room with a bucket full of phlegm/I don't need a music scene to tell me who I am”
Also in Giving Up Giving In
Kalnoky sings about being an outcast, opening the song with:
“I got no cash/I got no girl/but I got the world in the palm in my hand”
Another song devoted to this theme is This One Goes Out to…
where Kalnoky sings about experiences with his small group of friends in the inner city and wishing he had more true friends.
But, enough about the lyrics now, they are not the only thing that make this album a classic. Each member of Catch 22 is a very talented musician, and each one of them intends to let the listener know this. The bass lines are very creative. It sometimes seems that bassist Josh Ansley may have just improvised as the bass lines are all over the place and seem that it may have been hard to remember. One of the best bass lines can be found on Walking Away
. The song opens with some splashy cymbals, until the Ansley comes in with a jazzy bass and the horns soon join playing the same thing as the bass.
The drummer, Chris Greer, is also very talented, always keeping pace with the band no matter how fast they play, however, I feel sometimes he may just go a little to fast for the rest of the band and perhaps turn a song that would be better off as a slow song and turns it into another high octane ska song.
Throughout the album, Kalnoky really plays second fiddle on his guitar, never really showcasing his ability, but supporting the rhythm and horn section, which consists of Kevin Gunther on trumpet, Ryan Eldred on saxophone, and Jamie Egan on trombone, flute, French horn, and Irish tin whistle. Often, when it would seem a good time for a guitar solo, Kalnoky opts for the horn section to play it instead. When this happens they do a great job switching off parts and really working as a team to create a beautiful solo. A prime example of this is on the track Kristina She Don’t Know I Exist
. It is a great lyrical song that really anybody can relate to, but when each member of the band shows off their talents with their own respective solo it turns it into one of the most beautiful songs on the album.
The production of the album is really hit or miss. You will either love it to death or hate it with a passion. Often a song will start or end with someone yelling something unrelated to the song. Day In Day Out
opens up with someone yelling “1, 2, 3, REHHHH” (or a noise along those lines) and the rest of the band joins in with what sounds like off-key yodeling. At the end of Keasbey Nights
the band can be heard congratulating each other in the glory of creating a masterpiece. Contrary to this, at the end of 9mm And A Three Piece Suit
someone can be heard yelling “That was horrible. I can’t hear anything.” And with the closer 12341234
the band extends the song 3 minutes to give thanks to all that have helped them on their path to their creation of the album.
It’s the mix of all of these elements that make Catch 22’s Keasbey Nights an essential listen to any fan of punk or ska, or truly any genre. It truly grasps the feelings of a bunch of lower class teenagers and gives you a catchy, danceable beat to listen to, giving it a different perspective from what has already been done over and over again, easily making it a classic album with a 5/5
-each member is a great musician
-Kalnoky is a great writer, especially when it comes to choruses
-will easily cheer you up when you are sad
-a couple songs are killed by distortion and heavy drumming
-Kristina She Don’t Know I Exist