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| PERMANENT REVOLUTION
2) The Spark
3) Party Song
4) The Decembrists? Song
5) A Minor Point
6) On The Black Sea
7) Bad Party
8) Alma Ata
9) The Purge
| Holy crap. Next time I revolt, I'm going to do so with Leon Trotsky's lifestory blasting. Catch 22's brand-new release, Permanent Revolution, is just about everything you could ask for from one of the scene's biggest ska/punk bands. Third-wave ska purists: Yeah, there is horn. There is much horn. Yeah, it is good.
Energetic, if a bit rough (produced by Steve Evetts, with whom the band has done good work before), and fascinating to listen to, Catch 22's take on Trotsky is a good time. It's relatively short, what with the whole fast, explosive songs thing, but that just means that you can listen to the whole album in one sitting, which is entirely the way it has to be listened to. From "Prologue" to (wait for it) "Epilogue", the album zigzags stylistically between fantastically lyridellic ska and angry-horn punkishness to describe the rise and fall of Trotsky.
I'm genuinely pleased to have been introduced to ska this way--I've dabbled, sure, you know, got a few old old No Doubt songs and a few Streetlight Manifesto free downloads, but I've never been properly acquainted with the genre. And while I may not be able to fully analyze the album according to whatever "ska standards" may exist ("Horn" and "Not Enough Horn" seem to be popular), I can say that, as a listener with a fresh ear, I really want to hear more. The songs are catchy as all get out--I will never learn all the words to "The Spark", but I'll still keep on happily trying to sing along to the relaxed, upbeat deluge of optimistic survival against the man; The tension-building intro and the powerful punk and ska sensibilities both represented in "The Decemberists' Song" (Referring to the Russian Revolution, not the indie band) get my foot tapping and my head nodding violently; The rhythm changeups of "Bad Party" get at my heartstrings, while the commanding resentment of the song gets my hackles up.
If you're going to listen to this album, listen to the whole thing. Not everyone wants the whole album though, so I will say right off that not every track is a standalone hit. A few of the songs in the first half of the album kind of run together--while this makes sense if you're following along from "Prologue", looking at them independently, they do seem to be a bit similar, and stylistically make kind of a repetitive block, especially with the broad range of song styles that the rest of the album displays. Speaking of which, some of the songs toward the end are a bit slow... more with the mellow ska feel than the fast horn / hard strumming blend you get earlier on.
That's just the point, though--the songs are distinct, but not unrelated. This album is not just eleven songs randomly thrown on there--it's a full album-spanning story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. From the opening of and playing of the piano in "Prologue" to the 49-second reverb of the last note in "Epilogue", Permanent Revolution enacts an extremist political movement in style as well as in lyric. The first songs are fiery and, as "Prologue" says, it's easy to get wrapped up in the madness; then things get muddled towards the halfway point, as the story takes us to the mired middle, and the songs become more complex, with quiet, slow songs carrying the falling action to its conclusion.
So to summarize, there are some good songs on the album and some okay ones. But without any of them, you don't get the full effect of an album that, as a whole, is captivating. I'm new to ska, but coming from a largely emo and pop punk listening background, I found the album refreshing in a powerful way. I liked it, and I want more. While I usually recommend just checking out a band and seeing if you like it, not so this time. If you can get ahold of "Prologue", see whether the story intrigues you. If it does, get the album in its entirety, and hold on for a truly rocking trip.