Oh, I see how it is. When Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea turns 20 years old, everyone has something to say. Everybody wants to play Sigmund frickin’ Freud on the enigmatic artiste Jeff Mangum, huh? Yep, can’t swing a dead cat on the internet without hitting some music writer’s sage reflections on that album. Or Pulp’s This Is Hardcore. Or Madonna’s Ray of Light. I’ll bet y’all are gonna roll out the red carpet when Elliott Smith’s XO hits the big 2-0 this summer. Well let me ask you all something: Which one of you motherfuckers is gonna write about the anniversary of Catch-22’s third-wave ska classic Keasbey Nights?
I ask because the album’s 20th anniversary came and went last month and I didn’t see a single writer give it the credit it’s due. So who wants to raise their hand and throw their precious cultural clout proudly behind Keasbey Nights?
No one? Not one of you worthless scribes wants to devote any ink to this 1998 masterpiece? You’re telling me I can’t get a thinkpiece, an oral history, nothing? Oh, let me guess. It’s because it’s a ska album, right? Yeah, it’s because it’s a ska album and you’re an arbiter of taste with a reputation to protect. Sure. Go ahead and pretend like you don’t have a checkered past. Keep up this charade that 20 years ago you were wise beyond your years, possessing such a refined palate that it would only allow for masterpieces like PJ Harvey’s Is This Desire? and Tortoise’s TNT, when you secretly know that when you hear the opening horns on “Dear Sergio” you are overcome with the urge to skank like the pimply-faced teen you once were, and always will be deep down in your heart.
Oh, but In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a cult classic, you say? It’s got an intriguing backstory, does it? Okay. You want an intriguing backstory? How about a ska album being released through hardcore label Victory Records? That do anything for ya? How about Catch-22 splintering off into two separate bands, one of which re-recorded the entire album song for song as Streetlight Manifesto eight years later to prevent their label from re-releasing it against their will? How about an ensuing million-dollar lawsuit from said label? Anything intriguing there, pal? Your journalistic senses tingling yet? How about the fact that movie director Nancy Meyers was said to have partially based her movie Something’s Gotta Give on the song “Giving Up Giving In”? That last part was something I just made up, but you wouldn’t know because you’re too busy trying to dissect Cat Power’s Moon Pix!
“A ska band? From New Jersey?” you scoff. “I’d sooner write about the 20th anniversary of Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals or even Kid Rock’s Devil Without a Cause.” Alright. Have it your way. You’re the music expert, after all. Just seems peculiar to me that you see nothing worthwhile about a top-to-bottom perfect album. But I guess Keasbey Nights does lack the certain Anne Frank cosplay aspects of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. It never got the Pitchfork perfect score like your boy Jeff Mangum. It didn’t get reviewed by Pitchfork at all, in fact. It failed to achieve the prestigious honor of getting name-checked by Stephen Colbert on an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
Fine. I get it. Catch-22 is not “cool.” But can we at least sneak them into that sliver of uncool bands that are celebrated ironically for their nostalgic cache? Certainly, if we have room for Sum 41, Taking Back Sunday, and the entire Drive Thru Records catalog, we can squeeze them in there too, no? We cannot, you say. Trumpets and saxophones don’t age as well as off-key relationship whining. No clubs dedicate an evening each month to Ska Nite.
Fine. I suppose there’s just no room in our vast spectrum of cultural retrospection for anyone to celebrate their appreciation for Catch-22’s Keasbey Nights. Maybe in another 20 years, time will prove its worth and you’ll all say to yourselves “my, my, my how the time does fly” and finally come around on this crowning jewel of the third-wave ska movement. And in the end maybe I’ll see you there.
Dan Ozzi is on Twitter and if you come for him, he'll be sitting at his desk with a gun in his hand wearing a bullet-proof vest.