Release Date: Apr 30, 2013
Record label: Victory Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Punk Revival, Ska-Punk, Third Wave Ska Revival
Review Summary: “I felt no pain ‘till I was down and I was told that I was bleeding. And even then I knew I wasn’t done”It’s becoming increasingly difficult to put pen to paper with music criticism without falling into derivative tropes. It seems like a recurring theme in modern music criticism is that a band or artist needs to continuously reinvent themselves to remain “relevant” or to receive praise.
It’s clear from listening to The Hands That Thieve that Streetlight Manifesto puts a lot of work into their songwriting and arranging. They have one of the best horn sections of any band in rock music, and they fully utilize them. The horns are an essential and featured part of every song, and the band uses them to effectively experiment in genres well outside of the punk-ska genre into which they’re often lumped.
There's something inherently ebullient about third-wave ska, where the ramped-up energy level and punk rock touches seem to imbue the music with a certain amount of energy and enthusiasm. For the most part it feels like party music, which isn't a bad thing by any stretch, but it means that it takes a special something to pull it out of the realm of fun-time jams and into something deeper. On The Hands That Thieve, Streetlight Manifesto accomplish just such a feat, delivering an album of bittersweet ska-punk that feels more grown-up than anyone could have expected the genre to be.
Ska-punk is neither the most varied nor highly regarded of genres. But Streetlight Manifesto aren’t your average ska-punk band. Formed by former Catch 22 frontman Tomas Kanolky in 2002, they’ve consistently pushed the boundaries of the genre, both through their intelligent, existential take on life and the jazz-inspired touches that infuse their music.