Catch 22 is usually known for three things. They're know for being the band that created one of the best (if not the greatest) third-wave ska records ever, 1998's 'Keasby Nights', being Tomas Kalnoky's (previous singer/guitarist/songwriter for the band, now of Streetlight Manifesto fame) band before he left, and as the band that could never be as they were back in '98. Now, to be honest, trying to top one of the most acclaimed ska records of all time is no easy task and the new Catch 22 (Without Kalnoky, and as of now, without Jeff Davidson the singer for 'Alone in a Crowd' and most of this record) has the burden of having everything they make being shunned because it doesn't equal the greatness that is 'Keasby Nights'. Well I believe that's an unfair comparisson. Catch 22 puts out quality music, as can be seen with this collection of songs called 'Washed Up and Through the Ringer'. Now, 'Washed Up and Through the Ringer is far from perfect, and Catch 22 knows that it's not, as there's a little message in the booklet that comes with the album regarding how this record came to be.
'Washed Up and Through the Ringer' is a re-release of the hard to find EP, 'Washed Up'. Since the EP was very short, they added three tracks from a rare, limited edition copy of 'Alone in a Crowd', some live cuts of the band, and two new tracks that would prepare the world for the future Catch 22 (which I must say, after listening to 'Permanent Revolution, I'm excited for more). You see, after making 'Alone in the Crowd, vocalist Jeff Davidson decided to leave the band and so they made a very public search for a new singer. The band ended up deciding that the new singers would be Ryan Eldred (saxophonist) and Kevin Gunther (trumpet), and I'm happy they did. Ryan has a good voice that is refreshing considering all the terrible voices you'll hear on the radio now a days, and Kevin isn't too bad either.
So, the album begins with the two new songs, the first being the catchy and highly energized Straight Forward. It begins with a distant distorted guitar playing a fast riff, and it soon erupts into the infectious horn line. The singer sings about change and living for the moment, even when someones holding you down. The chorus is pure sing along as the band screams "Hey get off my back!" and Gunther quickly says the chorus. The song later finds itself in a more ska bridge where it feels like a sped up reggae song. Not soon after the bridge begins, the song jumps in for one last chorus before it comes to a sweet end. It's the perfect track to start of the album and it is possibly the best song on the whole CD. The second song is titled To Be Continued and it actually will be, as it becomes Chin Up on their album Dinosaur Sounds which they would release two years later. So, you may have heard it before, if not, it begins as a typical ska love song as they go through all the lyrics and then they become fast and aggressive and go through the lyrics once more before ending. It's a very short (a little over a minute long) song which is good because if it was longer, it would have dragged. A highlight of the song is Chris Greer, the drummer, who really shines on the second half of the song.
Included on the album are covers of Bob Marley's One Love and Don Mclean's American Pie (also a section of Blowing in the Wind, but I'll get to that later). They both basically use the same formula. Take what the singer sings and make that the horn line and then add distorted guitars. It can be good and bad. The Bob Marley cover is the better here as they actually include the verses and it doesn't become as repetitive as American Pie does. Even though it gets repetitive in some spots, I believe the band did a fairly good job covering this song. This now brings me to the other cover, American Pie. The band basically just sings the chorus to the song fast, slow, in a metal fashion, with more rhythm, all these different ways. And there's about three or so false endings that will make the song seem to go on forever as pretty much nothing changes. It's two minutes long which is shorter than the eight minute long original but the least they could've done was shorten it a little. I understand putting the verses in would be insane, even one would ruin the song, but did they have to include all the choruses. Maybe I'm being to hard on it, since it's obvious after listening to the live track which is also on the album, it's a great live song, as they make jokes and thank people in between the choruses which are silent. And it's great to sing along to also, but as a song on the album to just listen to, it's less effective.
That brings me to the live tracks. The titled live tracks (there are three unlisted live tracks, all from 'Keasby Nights') are all from 'Alone in a Crowd' and the last one is American Pie. The songs vary from good to average and there's nothing terrible on here. The quality of the songs are fairly good considering fans recorded them and the band works very well together, though hearing the horns can be difficult at times. In between the songs the band humors the audience and you can tell they have a lot of charisma and are comfortable on stage, something very important for a good live band and that's lacking from a lot of new bands. The band will occasionally make a mistake once in awhile, missed notes and chords, the sax squeaks once, and sometimes the songs can lose their structure for a second. On the live song of Hard to Impress, the rhythm section usually does a good job of keeping everything together, as it is a very complicated song, going from ska form to a fast, raw metal sound. When they come back in after rocking it out with distorted guitars, the tempo decreases and when they come back in, it becomes faster. And the second time they go back to the ska form, they screw up for a second and smooth it all out the next. Other than that, they did that song fine, and it is a difficult song. The song itself is a catchy and intense little number with a nice horn line, best during the distorted parts. The singers scream and the drums are attacked very well.
The three songs off the limited edition 'Alone in a Crowd are pretty good and show a side of Catch 22 that was very strange when it came out. Sincerely Yours is a minute long machine gun of musical fury that is one of the best on the album. To the killer guitar riff to the furious horn line, this is one to be heard. The lyrics are great, too: "Dear loving friend I meant to write sooner but the time just wasn't right. Some things I'd rather leave unsaid and I'm sorry that I did". It's a quick one and I love it. The second song is the Bob Marley cover and the third is the oddball of the album. No Love For the Roadie is a seven and a half minute long rap about the band. To give you a taste, the opening verse is: "Hm, C22, these punk mother****ers now a hip hop crew". Yeah, it's weird as hell, but it is a funny song. At times it will get old and you will wonder if it will ever end, but most of it is very entertaining.
The rest of the four song EP 'Washed Up is good and bad. Leaving is a rather average song. There really is nothing to unique about it, just sounds like any other ska band out today. The horns do a nice job but there's no real hook for the song so it just seems boring throughout. The lyrics are, unfortunately, the worst on the album. Though, not terrible, they don't deliver like they should. The last song on the EP and the last of the titled part of the album is a joke song like No Love For the Roadie called The Death of My Blood Is Your Indulgence. It's a super hardcore song where the singer just yells, similar to almost all the bands on the new Headbangers Ball. Damn the man who cancelled the original. Anyway, this forty second burst of energy is hilarious and it's quite the awesome. But this is not the end of the album like I've said before. There are three hidden live tracks, all from Keasby Nights. The first is On & On & On with a Blowing in the Wind intro. They do a good job with On & On & On and they sound like they have fun singing Tomas's song. Very entertaining and the next is even better.
The singer begins the song by saying something I'm definitely going to start saying to crowds at my shows, "At least we have fun at what we do, it doesn't matter if we suck or not. This songs called Kristina She Don't Know I Exist". And then this awesome song begins. It's actually rather different than Kalnoky's song. The song begins normal and then after the horn line, the guitar becomes distorted, the singer yells out the lyrics, and the song seems like it's in double-time. The band skips all the solos (including Tomas's heartbreakingly beautiful guitar solo) and plow straight through the song. It's awesome to hear a different rendition of one of the best songs off Keasby Nights. Though the original is better, this is a high octane and still quite emotional song. The final song off the album is another classic off Catch 22's masterpiece, 9mm and a Three Piece Suit is done so well vocally and instrumentally. You'd think the singers are from Run DMC the way they start and stop the lyrics. It'll get you so pumped and then it'll end, and no I don't mean it ends at the appropriate spot. Someone must have turned the recording machine off at the final horn line because it ends abruptly. Though it's disappointing to hear it end like that, they still did a great freaking job on it.
Washed Up and Through the Ringer never claims to be Keasby Nights, and it never claims to be anything more than a fun little record to enjoy. In a way, it's sort of a history of Catch 22. It begins with the new C22, throughout the middle of the record is the second iteration of the band, and at the very end are three of the songs that made the band famous. Though it's not their best, it's definitely worth the budget price. The lyrics are usually good, the vocals for the new band are great while the old ones are good (they do sound like Tomas Kalnoky though). The horns are the best part of the band and they shine on this album, but once again, not there best. And the guitarist and bass work well with the band and bring newer sounds to the music. Overall, it's a worthwhile purchase, it has it's ups and downs and it can make you wanna pop in Keasby Nights and sing-along with all it's glory, but what ska record doesn't make you wanna do that" (okay, I'm being a little biased, but you know it's true on some occasions) So, this has been Green_Clash, and I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the record. Between Blowing in the Wind and On & On & On, the lead says "Hey, there's a lot of different bands tonight, unity is what makes the scene stronger, let's have a good time! Let's, Catch 22, let's...