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Label: Victory Records

Release Date: April 30, 2013

Rating: 8/10

Reviewed by: Mike Hubbard

It has been 11 years since New Brunswick, New Jersey’s Streetlight Manifesto rose from the ashes of the implosion of the original Catch 22, and ever since then they have been at the forefront of the genre of ska-punk. Their first three full-lengths were instant classics, featuring front-man Tomas Kalnoky’s rasping vocals and the tightest horn section found anywhere. Their high-energy and bouncing rhythms set the bar for every other third-wave ska band to reach for. They’ve always had a way to take even the most serious of subjects, infuse it with some “skank” guitar riffs, back it with a horn section, and put a smile on your face.

Six years have passed since their last release of original songs, 2007’s “Somewhere In The Between”. In some ways it has seemed even longer. Originally scheduled for release in November 2012, after multiple delays, April 30, 2013 saw the release of Streetlight’s fifth and final release for Victory records, “The Hands That Thieve”. Concurrent with the release by Streetlight was planned a release of an acoustic version of the same songs called “The Hand That Thieves”, by Toh Kay, which is the name under which Kalnoky performs solo. However, on the day of the planned release Kalnoky announced on Streetlight’s website that the release by Toh Kay will be delayed, but gave no explanation.

Much has transpired for Streetlight over the six years since “Somewhere In The Between”, and the effects are evident in this album. For one thing, there is the well-documented ongoing legal battle with their label, Victory. Also in play is their announcement on March 1st that they are turning a page in the Streetlight Manifesto story and plan to stop touring after 2013 to “pursue different musical avenues” and “live a slightly less hectic lifestyle”.

With all that as a background, we come to actually listening to the music. “Hands” opens with “The Three of Us”. Right away you hear the unique Streetlight sound. The second track, “Ungrateful”, leans more towards the punk side of ska-punk, but is still distinctly Streetlight. The horn section leads off the next track, “The Littlest Things”, returning back to the ska side of the genre. However, by this point something begins to strike you as the listener. Although the sound is very much like the Streetlight you’ve grown to know and love, there is something different going on here. It’s a little darker, a bit more reserved, and more introspective than we’ve heard from Tomas and the boys in the past. The devil-may-care, mischievous, we’re-all-gonna-die-anyways-so-let’s-have-fun-while-we-can attitude is missing.

Maybe it’s a matter of maturing. As noted in their March 1st announcement, most of the band members are now in their 30’s. Maybe the battles with Victory have jaded them. Maybe the wear and tear of constant touring (again as noted in their March announcement) has just plain worn them out.

Streetlight’s lyrics have always been dark, but now the music follows suit. Slightly slower tempos and primarily minor keys differentiate the feeling of this album from their previous releases.

The one notable exception is the track “If Only For Memories”. With a heavy infusion of horns throughout, it almost has a calypso feel to it. Even the lyrics are more positive, with a chorus of “I believe that every broken bone is meant to be; And when it heals it will be stronger than it was before; And I see The things that I pretend that I don’t see; And I store them in my head, love, if only for memories”

Overall, “The Hands That Thieve” is a worthy addition to any Streetlight Manifesto fan, or for any fan of third-wave ska-punk for that matter. It is a logical progression for the band. I don’t see any of these tracks becoming classics like “Point/Counterpoint” or “We Will Fall Together”, but it is definitely worth checking out.

Category: CD Reviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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