Review Summary: Streetlight Manifesto's Everything goes numb is a landmark album in today's ska scene and will remain an influential record in ska for years to come. It's just too bad that albums like these don't come out that often.
Formed from the ashes of Catch 22
and One cool guy
, Streetlight Manifesto
has been hailed as one of the best ska bands out now. With their names being tossed around the internet for ages, chances are that there's a reason to that. There seems to be a lot of hype around this band. Bands like Arctic Monkeys have been subject to this amount of hype, but there's a difference. Where Arctic Monkeys have been hyped to the point that people avoid them like the plague. Streetlight's hype is a more subtle and more dignified hype. It's not that often that bands are acclaimed by one and all in ska music but Everything goes numb
seems to be one of those records that comes once in a while and saves the genre's behind and makes it more respectable. If only albums like these can come out consistently, then maybe ska can become much more of a respectable and relevant genre. It seems as if ska has stooped down to simply a genre that's muddled with frat boy and juvenile lyrics and sub par song writing, Streetlight Manifesto seem like a much needed breath of fresh air in a genre that is finding it difficult to stay relevant. Streetlight manifesto's debut Everything goes numb
will literally numb any stereotype you might've had about ska music. Forget about the hit or miss horn sections, the dull and uninspired instruments and the crappy, apathetic and down in the dump lyrics.The sheer amount of originality the band has is quite amazing and the band proves itself able to concoct a variety of rhythms and arrangements within the ska-punk format but that doesn't mean its just another ska punk album.
Quite the contrary, Everything goes numb features a variety of influences which makes it so original and ultimately, different from it's peers. Everything is less predictable compared to what is in the genre these days. Every song has something different to it. From the energetic title track to the polka influenced If and when we rise again
(which happens to be the weakest song on here) to the spanish influenced A moment of silence
. All of the songs sound more fresh mainly because of Tomas Kalnoky's eccentric song writing. After releasing albums like Keasbey Nights, Everything goes numb and A call to arms it's safe to say that he knows what he's doing and unsurprisingly possesses one of the most creative and eccentric musical minds today. All of the songs are fleshed out in a different and interesting way. In alot of ways, this album is almost the sequel to the classic Keasbey Nights. But this album features more focused song writing and also has it's fair share of epic songs. Songs like A moment of silence
and A better place A better time
give you chills and most songs are well above 4 minutes long and this is by no means bad. It's actually a very good thing and a welcome change. Often ska music is ranging from 1:30 to 3:30 minute songs tops. This is another reason why Everything goes numb remains a landmark album in the ska scene.
Musically the album is one of the best around and Streetlight Manifesto can boast about the fact that they have quite possibly one of the best if not best horn section in ska today. All the songs are fast and energetic. The horn section consisting of Dan Ross, James Egan and Jim Conti know how to play their instruments and play them well. The accelerations and decelerations adding some anthemic power, the horns injecting a sense of drama into the music. The horn section is what drives this album and is what makes it so enjoyable to listen to. The album is full of vibrant and colourful horn lines that will no doubt make you dance. Sometimes their horn work is almost set up like an orchestra or an ensemble evidenced in the chorus of A moment of silence. Alot of the songs are held together by the jittery nature of the drums, which are surprisingly great and keep things going at a fast pace, drummer Paul Lowndes smashes those drums like no other and drums at a frenetic pace all the while maintaining some spastic rhythms. Musically the band is really tight nitted as one unit. Josh Ansley's impressive and grooving basslines add to the music as he brings forth some pretty fast and rapid basslines on We are the few and That'll be the day
, but knows how to slow things down on A better place a better time
, which help the music stay interesting. But the guitars are the big let down here, Tomas Kalnoky's guitar skills I imagine are quite good but he isn't able to show those skills on this record which isn't entirely a bad thing mainly because guitar isn't the main feature of ska music. But the guitars serve more of a background purpose and this is one of the small flaws about Everything goes numb's wonderful musicianship.
Tomas Kalnoky is the glue of this band and that glue has one of the strangest vocals in the ska scene today. It's phlegmy and rapid which is something you would see in a typical hardcore punk band. It is similar to an aged hardcore punk singer returning to sing lovely ska songs. His voice is much less phlegmy on this album however. But it can go eitherway (his voice) one second he's singing normally on songs like Here's to Life
, A better place A better time
and A moment of silence
, We are the few
and the title track. But then he'll jump right back to the phlegm and rapid vocal delivery reminiscent of 1998's Keasbey Nights on songs like Big sleep
, Failing Flailing
, If and when we rise again
and That'll be the day
. This helps to keep things interesting as his voice keeps changing and doesn't stay in the same tone throughout. He sings so rapidly but somehow makes the lyrics audible. His voice has the quickness of a hardcore punk vocalist but with the audible and melodic brilliance unrivaled. Tomas is also the main songwriter and lyricist on the album. Another thing about the vocals is that almost every song is so anthemic partly because of the gang shouted vocals and that makes every song so fun to sing along to.
The lyrics are written in a more narrative form and Tomas Kalnoky eradicates any form of suburban angst that was found in his past lyrics. The songs are written in a more (like I said) narrative way that makes them like a story which has always been a trademark of Kalnokys. Everything goes numb furthers this style and makes it much much better with a variety of topics on hand. The album features topics like suicide, robbery, and social outcasts among more. But written with a more direct optimism on songs like A better place A better time, which is among one of the best songs on the album. Some songs are even introspective looks into Tomas Kolnaky's life evidence in the omage Here's to Life. Lyrically the best song on here is Failing Flailing which pokes fun at suburban teenage life in lines like
so you say your life's a bore
and i can't quite disagree
if you judge your life by the pieces of *** that inhabit your tv
...which is quite possibly one of the best lyrics off this album. Point/Counterpoint (another highlight) also features some great lyrics.
If there was something wrong would you be oh so strong?
Would you do what it takes to move this hollow life along?
I'd like to think I would, you know I'd like to think I would
but I can guarantee that what you see is not reality
and every time she makes a point, I make a counterpoint
She said it's easy but in the end you'll have no choice
and you know that's only just the way it goes
You said it right man, That is just the way it goes
To sum the lyrics up in one sentence. The lyrics are mature, lacking any suburban angst whatsoever and intelligent.
But the one big flaw, which really isn't a big flaw, of the album is probably it's almost too strong of resemblance with Catch 22's Keasbey Nights. When one listens to Everything goes numb the whole way through it's hard not to think of Keasbey Nights. Some songs seem like continuations of some songs that were on Keasbey Nights. Infact, the boys of Streetlight play Keasbey Nights in the middle of Point/Counterpoint live. Everything goes numb has the same mariachi vibe of Dear Sergio
and the guitars and horns of That'll be the day
sound alot like Sick and sad
. Failing Flailing
is sometimes played with 9mm and three piece suit spliced in between. It's nothing that really draws back the album, but it makes you think if Streetlight Manifesto is able to make something new off a new foundation.
Finally, Streetlight Manifesto's Everything goes numb is a landmark album in today's ska scene and will remain an influential record in ska for years to come. You'll find it hard to find a mediocre song on this record. It's just too bad that albums like these don't come out that often.
Here's to life
A moment of silence
A better place A better time