Break out the checkered suspenders and dust off those old history books -- you're gonna need 'em both. Ready or not, New Jersey's Catch 22 has arrived with their academic soiree, Permanent Revolution. It's a concept album that ambitiously follows the life of Leon Trotsky, Bolshevik revolutionary and father of Marxist theory. (Who knew these ska-punks were also scholars?) After the band was forced to find new singers following both Keasbey Nights and Alone in a Crowd, Permanent Revolution is the second proper effort with saxophonist Ryan Eldred and trumpeter Kevin Gunther trading off on vocals. And coming off the lukewarm and mixed response to Dinosaur Sounds, this album should find fans more pleasantly greeted than the unsteady rock that dominated that 2003 record. Even with a lyrical theme that finds the band stretching itself a bit thin with straightforward insight ("Stay true to principle and give your all for all!"), the music stands firm. And this is a good thing, since really, while a Russian history lesson is a noble task, its still seems a little awkward revved up to the tune of the third wave. The soundtrack to the Bolshevik Revolution this is not. But it is enjoyable music. When certain parts aren't sounding like they're coming straight from a musical's narrative (as in the opening track, but that may or may not be on purpose), the record is full of upbeat ska-punk numbers flowing with driving chords, crisp riffing, and triumphant brass. The band also draws on reggae and hardcore punk blasts to sprinkle on their ska for taste, and songs like "The Spark (1902)" and "Bad Party (1927)" benefit because of this. "Alma Ata (1928)" is a sleeper ready for the ranks of office elevators, but thankfully, the subsequent energy of "The Purge (1936)" kicks things back up near the album's end. It's too bad, though, that "Epilogue" sounds so disturbingly like Elton John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" that the album fades out unremarkably instead of exiting in a triumphant fanfare of rebellion. But no matter, since while Trotsky's career ultimately gets the axe (literally), Permanent Revolution is encouraging for Catch 22. Just when some fans were ready to toss them aside, they prove there's still some life left in those old horns after all.
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AllMusic Review by Corey Apar