Review Summary: Everything you'd expect to find on this album, from Kalnoky's anthemic lyrical essays to a sensational brass and woodwind section, is here. A perfect complement to 2003's 'Everything Goes Numb.'
After arguably releasing the best third-wave ska album ever with 2003's Everything Goes Numb
, it's likely been an agonizing four years for Streetlight Manifesto fans. While last year's revisitation of the legendary Keasbey Nights
by Catch 22
did offer new Streetlight, the slight musical and lyrical deviations found in the group's re-recording did little to whet one's appetite for new Streetlight tunes. Then, beginning in August 2007, the teasers started to roll in. First, the follow-up's title - Somewhere in the Between
- was announced. A week later, three song samples appeared on the band's official website, which were in turn followed up by two more song samples and, eventually, two full-length tracks appeared on a split with colleagues Voodoo Glow Skulls
and a third full-length song found its place on a Victory Records sampler.
Now, after whipping themselves into a frenzy, fans finally have their long sought-after follow-up in Somewhere in the Between
. But, rampant speculation and key questions remain: is Tomas Kalnoky still a brilliant lyricist and songwriting genius? Is the instrumentation still solid? Does this album stand out and stand on its own merits, or is this album simply an Everything Goes Numb, Part II
, an unfortunate case of a sophomore slump, where it is completely overshadowed by its predecessor?
The final verdict: Somewhere in the Between
firmly stands on its own as a beautiful complement to Everything Goes Numb
for two key reasons. First, Kalnoky's unwavering magnetism both lyrically and instrumentally is yet again one of the most appealing aspects of the album. Second, the instrumentation - especially the brass and woodwinds - is unquestionably magnificent and richer than what's heard on the group's debut.
Streetlight's instrumentation is typically spellbinding, but the horns and saxophones on Somewhere in the Between
are markedly vibrant and expressive throughout the entire album. Mike Brown (alto and baritone sax), Jim Conti (alto and tenor sax), Mike Soprano (trombone), and Matt Stewart (trumpet) absolutely shine on Somewhere in the Between
, and this is exemplified right from the album's onset with We Will Fall Together
. Opening with near-celebratory fanfare and kicking off the album on an extremely captivating note, the four musicians alternate sharing the featured spotlight... all within the first minute of the album. Collectively, their embouchures are unbelievable. The dueling saxophone section that precedes an accelerated bass solo from Pete McCullaugh at the song's bridge is one of the manifold album highlights from an instrumental standpoint.
To individually point out each spectacular trumpet, trombone, and/or saxophone feature found on Somewhere in the Between
would lead to this review being longer than the average Tomas Kalnoky lyric sheet. As anticipated and as expected, Kalnoky remains true to form with his dissertations-for-lyrics style of storytelling. Tracks like One Foot On The Gas, One Foot In The Grave
and Watch It Crash
are two such instances, but pale in comparison to the anthemic Down, Down, Down to Mephisto's Cafe
or the animated The Receiving End of It All
. In "Mephisto's," Kalnoky claims, "So fuc
k the flocks of sheep that keep amassing masses / Asses being led so far astray / And I won't claim to believe the things I read / Black books or agenda magazine / I'd rather see in shades of grey" and offers engaging lines such as, "Don't crack, because you might not make it back - and if you do, you will be alone and you can't live like that / Well, I know when I'm wrong and I sure as hell ain't wrong this time." Essentially, Down, Down, Down to Mephisto's Cafe
may represent the quintessential Something in the Between
track: sporting rapid-fire guitars, machine-gun-delivery vocals, and a decorated brass section, the track serves as both a throwback to Everything Goes Numb
-style Streetlight as well as representing the ever-evolving Streetlight sound found on the follow-up.
Another extremely appealing aspect to the album is Kalnoky's allusions to Everything Goes Numb
with shared lyrics between the two albums. For example, The Receiving End of It All
contains the lyric, "And we sang: 'Yeah, that's just the way that it goes,'" which brings to mind a similar statement uttered in Point/Counterpoint
. Whether this was a conscious decision by Kalnoky or not may not be worth exploring, but his nuances and mannerisms vocally and instrumentally throughout the album are as unyielding as ever. Again, the Streetlight frontman's imagery in his lyrics is truly noteworthy, and his tackling of abstract ideas such as faith and religion ("Did you lose faith? Yes, I lost faith in the powers that be / But in doing so, I came across the will to disagree / And I gave up, yes, I gave up and then I gave in / But I take responsibility for every single sin," as heard in The Blonde Lead the Blind
; "What a way to begin: we inherit sin / And nobody's going to quench your thirst when the well runs dry / And nobody's going to hold your hand on the day you die," taken from Forty Days
) to Kalnoky's familiar love-your-life philosophy ("So you were born, and that was a good day / Someday you'll die and that is a shame / But somewhere in the between was a life of which we all dream / And nothing and no one will ever take that away," from the title track, which has some tremendous back-up vocals) makes for an enthralling and captivating listen, provided the listener can catch up with his swift vocal delivery.
Somewhere in the Between
is a magnificent album that will undoubtedly please Streetlight Manifesto fans new and old, but another album strength lies within its accessibility. For good reason, Streetlight Manifesto oftentimes serves as an introductory band into the third-wave ska genre, and it's obvious as to why this is so. A first-time listener or a lifelong Streetlight fan could pick this up and get more than just something out of this record. Everything you'd expect to find on this album, from Kalnoky's anthemic lyrical essays and lightning-fast chord progressions, to Chris Thatcher's strong, assured drumming, to a sensational brass and woodwind section, is found on this album without a doubt. Somewhere in the Between
has an enormous number of highlights, but the trumpet, trombone, and saxophone instrumentation is superior to what's heard on Everything Goes Numb
. Sure, Somewhere in the Between
has a couple clunky passages, but this is to be expected in a ten-track album that spans about three-quarters of an hour. All told, this album serves as a perfect complement to Everything Goes Numb
, and while the expected Streetlight elements are found here and are as stellar as ever, the brass and woodwind section is arguably the biggest reason why Somewhere in the Between
is essential listening.
The Receiving End of It All (an essential must-listen!)
We Will Fall Together
Down, Down, Down to Mephisto's Cafe
What a Wicked Gang Are We
The Blonde Lead the Blind
Somewhere in the Between