Review Summary: When in doubt, re-record your own songs
Given Tomas Kalnoky's inclination for recording retreads of his and other’s previously released material, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe that yet another cover album of sorts would come to life before the third record of originals dropped from Streetlight Manifesto. With this said, there isn’t anything that could add to the frustration and impatience of the Streetlight fans more than this type of release, acknowledged that 2007’s Somewhere in the Between
was the last original album released by the band. Yet if anyone could continually getting away with doing such things it is Kalnoky, as most of these tracks had been written by himself either with Streetlight Manifesto, Catch 22, or Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution. Additionally, the cover of Keasbey Nights
and moments of 99 Songs of Revolution: Volume I
were brilliant, even if they were only consolation prizes. So here in late-2011, a new Streetlight Manifesto record is nowhere to be found, so why not continue the trend?
Under the alias of Toh Kay, Kalnoky has re-recorded several of the most proficient Streetlight Manifesto tracks, as well as two gems from Catch 22’s classic Keasbey Nights
. Offering a stark contrast to the raucous energy of ska-giants Streetlight Manifesto, Streetlight Lullabies
is very much a testament its name; featuring only Kalnoky on his acoustic guitar. Opting for a tranquil atmosphere rather than a folk-punk resonance, Kalnoky’s vocals shift from the raspy tone that we would expect, to a serene croon. Although off-kilter at times, Kalnoky’s fresh vocal approach brings greater emphasis to the tremendous guitar work and exceptional lyrics that many may have missed on Everything Goes Numb
and Somewhere in the Between
. The former aspect is possibly the most impressive facet of the record, as the tracks are often finger picked rather than strummed. Although there isn’t much to expect from a solo acoustic record musically, Streetlight Lullabies
is taken to a new level by Kalnoky’s classical-esque work on “Watch it Crash” and “Would You Be Impressed?.” In fact, that latter could very well be the musical underscore of the release, as the finger picking is both tasteful and incredibly intriguing. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the following track “Sick and Sad” of Catch 22 fame, as Kalnoky turns down the metronome to develop what is a cool-mannered rendition of the turbulent original.
Yet the most affecting pieces on Streetlight Lullabies
are those most celebrated Streetlight Manifesto tracks: “A Moment of Silence,” “We Will Fall Together,” “A Better Place, A Better Time,” and the classic “The Big Sleep.” Each lyrically brilliant, the new interpretations are very much “lyrics first, music second” in demeanor. The tandem of “The Big Sleep” and “A Better Place, A Better Time,” pack a potent punch with Kalnoky’s one-liners, the former heighted by its unforgettable opening: “Why do you cry when you know the story ends?” The record’s closer is arguably the only one of Kalnoky’s tracks that could rival “The Big Sleep” lyrically, as it is a heartrending plead to prevent a friend’s suicide. Each word more powerful than the last, the acoustic version of “A Better Place, A Better Time” is a difficult, but moving listen in the same.
Ultimately, the recordings in Streetlight Lullabies
suffer a bit for not having the same vigorous draw of the originals, but overall create an intriguing and distinct listen. Riding Kalnoky’s refined vocals, incomparable guitar work, and poignant lyricism, this acoustic rendition of Streetlight Manifesto and Catch 22 songs is a legitimate indie-folk release. The fact that a new Streetlight record has not been released since 2007 is certain to spark frustration from the fans, but this retread is just another indication that Toh Kay can get it done at virtually any level.