Music

Catch 22: Permanent Revolution

Catch 22 sticks to their strengths, and Permanent Revolution is an unchallenging but satisfying effort that bounces back nicely from their last disappointment -- and manages to educate listeners about Leon Trotsky in the process.


Catch 22

Permanent Revolution

Label: Victory
US Release Date: 2006-06-27
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

There are things in life that just wouldn't naturally be associated. Like, say… apples and sneakers. Wristwatches and grass. Condoms and cockroaches (at least, we certainly hope not on that count). Dead communists and ska bands.

Well, scratch the last item off that list: New Jersey ska rockers Catch 22's newest release, Permanent Revolution, is a concept album that focuses, of all things, on Leon Trotsky. Why exactly a ska band that previously specialized in providing suburban teen party hits would choose to go in this direction is left unanswered, and fortunately so; for all intents and purposes, this is the same Catch 22 that we've come to know and love, albeit with some history lesson lyrics grafted on top, and a lot more energy than their last few tepid efforts.

The band wisely keeps the concept confined to the lyrics, which hang together competently -- the songs are arranged in chronological fashion, with each song providing a snapshot into a period of Trotsky's life. The words are delivered in endearingly straightforward fashion, with little sense of wordplay but a lot of earnestness. While they're nothing to write home about, they certainly aren't embarrassing either, which is actually kudos to Catch 22: most other ska/punk bands would have overreached into an operatic flop.

But of course, when it comes to Catch 22, the lyrics have never really been the point, and that's still true even on the concept album. All that's important is that the vocals provide a melody to complement the upbeat instrumentals, and singer Ryan Eldred is smart enough to know not to get in the way. The band displays their usual blend of good old-fashioned, punchy, horn-driven rock -- with a significant upgrade on the brass this time. Riffs tend to come more often from trumpets than guitars, which is a good thing considering the talent of the trumpeter/saxophonist duo; it lends the music a distinctive flavor and surge.

Indeed, the best song on the album, "Opportunity", employs the brass to amazing effect, somehow spinning a triumphant love song out of Trotsky's death. "The Decembrists' Song" provides a martial call-to-arms, ska-style, with driving horns and all. "A Minor Point" plays with the same force and energy, offering the chilling refrain: "To build a new foundation / You must first tear down the walls". There are weak points, of course, especially when the band tries to go for laid-back balladry -- "Alma Ata" is particularly slow and insubstantial, and the closer, "Epilogue", sounds a little too close to "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" for comfort. But overall, Catch 22 sticks to their strengths, and Permanent Revolution is an unchallenging but satisfying effort that bounces back nicely from their last disappointment, Dinosaur Sounds, and manages to educate listeners about the godfather of Bolshevikism in the process.

6
Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Film

'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

Keep reading... Show less
9

South Pole Station is an unflinching yet loving look at family in all its forms.

The typical approach of the modern debut novel is to grab its audience's attention, to make a splash of the sort that gets its author noticed. This is how you get a book deal, this is how you quickly draw an audience -- books like Fight Club, The Kite Runner, even Harry Potter each went out of their way to draw in an audience, either through a defined sense of language, a heightened sense of realism, or an instant wash of wonder. South Pole Station is Ashley Shelby's debut, and its biggest success is its ability to take the opposite approach: rather than claw and scream for its reader's attention, it's content to seep into its reader's consciousness, slowly drawing that reader into a world that's simultaneously unfamiliar and totally believable.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image