"There is absolutely no way of explaining the existence of the record you now hold in your hands without somehow offending, infuriating, confusing or alienating certain parties, so we won't even try. Please enjoy this for what it is." Such is the opening paragraph that awaits inquiring minds inside the notes for Keasbey Nights -- the version "as performed by Streetlight Manifesto," that is. Ska revival fans of the late '90s will recognize the title immediately as the name of the 1998 debut full-length from the influential New Jersey ska outfit Catch 22. Tomas Kalnoky, Streetlight's raspy lead singer, was a founding member of Catch 22, responsible for writing and singing on the original Keasbey Nights before leaving the band for the realms of higher education. Songs from the album were arguably never the same when performed live without his distinctive voice. Well, now Kalnoky is back with a new band, Streetlight Manifesto, and though they produce pretty damn enjoyable ska-punk on their own terms (check out their 2003 debut, Everything Goes Numb), for their second Victory release the band is reaching into the archives. It's Keasbey Nights, Part Deux. Rumors of this possible release had been circulating among the ska world for quite a while as its street date kept getting pushed back, and speculation was high as to the exact motivation behind re-recording the album in its entirety. After all, there's no new material; it's the same album. And even though the new version is technically by a different band, it's still the same singer. So why? Fortunately, a little light is shed at the end of the last track. Amid distracting background music, distorted electronic voices conduct a barely audible interview as to the motivations behind the album. It seems that not only was Kalnoky never satisfied with the original recording, but they also wanted to prevent the album's possible re-release in the annoying record label fashion of being untouched, save new artwork and a bonus track or two. (At least that's what the reasons might have been; try deciphering the electronic mess yourself.) Lacking the energy or desire to pick both albums apart and compare song by song, you shall instead be left with these thoughts. Ardent fans of the original Keasbey Nights will notice better (but not overbearing) production, some changes in lyrics and horn arrangements, and a very slight smoothing of Kalnoky's voice with age. Consequently, the overall tone of the Streetlight version comes off a bit smoother and lacking some of the raw, youthful energy that made the original album such a cult classic. Purist lovers of the first Keasbey Nights will probably be turned off at the somewhat cleaner and altered version of the record, looking at version 2.0 as the unnecessary altering of a masterpiece. Others though won't see a glaring difference between both albums, enjoying the re-recording as much as the original; after all, it is a great record. As the mock interview reveals, it's ultimately up to the fans whether or not they see a need to buy the 2006 version. Either way, Streetlight Manifesto stands by its version, and as the liner notes implore, hopes you can just enjoy the album for what it is.
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AllMusic Review by Corey Apar