Ska-punk is supposed to be easygoing, but fully appreciating Catch 22's "Washed Up" is hard work. Although the New Jersey septet's new CD boasts four songs -- all billed as "extra jumpy" -- things fall off quickly after the catchy opener, "Leaving." One of the subsequent tracks is a version of "American Pie," which is actually just six breakneck run-throughs of the Don McLean hit's chorus, and it's followed by a 45-second death-metal parody that defines the term "throwaway."
Twelve minutes later, however, the music starts again. This unlisted section of the disc is live, and mostly extra jumpy, too, although it opens with a bit of "Blowin' in the Wind" taken at a folkie tempo. These four hidden tunes may be enough to make "Washed Up" a worthy investment for the band's fans, but casual listeners might want to see if they can get a Catch 22 devotee to put "Leaving" on a mix tape for them.
"The Elements of Transition" seems a ponderous title for a ska-punk release, but it suits the second album by Edna's Goldfish. The Long Island septet still features the blaring horn arrangements of third-wave ska, but its beats have become more straightforward and its melodies more mainstream. For every song like "Instant Message," which enlists ska's traditional rhythm, there's one like "Everyone I Know Is From Lindenhurst," which uses trumpets and trombone to stoke a chugging, hard-rock cadence.
What's novel in the ska-punk demimonde, though, is less striking in a wider context. Such new Goldfish songs as "World Over" and "More Sides" are hard-rock ballads so conventional that their horns suggest Chicago (or at least Sting) more than Madness. This album stops well short of transforming the septet into a mainstream-rock act, but the band's transition certainly includes elements of that style.
Both appearing Sunday at the Garage with Inspector 7. To hear a free Sound Bite from Catch 22, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8103. For a Sound Bite from Edna's Goldfish, press 8104. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)