Review Summary: "Nothing, you won't say nothing... And that's just fine"4 of 7 thought this review was well written
Streetlight Manifesto's Everything Goes Numb
is one of the best albums ever recorded, and Tomas Kalnoky is one of the best frontmen of all time.
I know, I know. Those are lofty statements, specially considering that I haven't even heard that many Ska albums.
In truth, my initial thoughts of ska were completely opposite of what I think today. My first take with the genre, or at least what I thought was the genre, was with Jimmy Cliff and, in all honesty, I thought it was boring.
Sure, Jimmy Cliff 's influence as a first wave ska musician is undeniable. Sure, his lyrics and themes were interesting, and sure, the music was chill. But, it also felt rather uneventful and relatively lifeless. Now sure I'm going to gain some enemies and several dumbfounded expressions directed at me because of that, but either way, I ended up being rather turned off from Ska, so when I saw that Streetlight Manifesto, the first through-and-through Ska band that I saw, had this genre tag, I can't say I was interested, let alone excited, to check them out.
I think it goes without saying that, eventually, I did, just displaying how little I knew what I was saying back then. You can imagine my face when I was first met with the blazing, joyful energy off of the semi-title track 'Everything Went Numb'. "What is this?" I thought.
"Horns are used like that? Since when is a Ska drummer so full energy? What's up with all the crazy rhythms?"
Those were all questions that were plaguing my mind as I kept going on. Fortunately, I quickly realized that, hey, I actually liked all of that. I liked how full of joyfulness was, I liked how fast Tomas sang, and how entertaining it was to listen to him. I liked the drumming, I liked how it was produced, the horns... Everything, really. So, quickly after, I went ahead and obtained the full album, and after some time of putting it aside, I went onto give it the chance I should've given it a long time ago.
The album kicks in with the aforementioned 'Everything Went Numb'. Like previously mentioned, the song, and the album in general, is full of energy, being very uplifting and even happy-feeling music. The whole album is written using Kalnoky's simple-but-fun guitar rhythms as a base for the rest of the band to go nuts, him still taking a huge part on the lead with his fast and fun vocal styles. The horns are insanely good; they not only sound great but they are also well written, particularly standing out the way the bandmates play off of each other, displaying a great amount of chemistry, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has listened to One Cool Guy, since as the horn section is done by former members of that band. The bass lines are jumpy and equally energetic as the rest of the band, though it is often difficult to detect them amidst all the other band members, but stands out well enough on their own on the rare occasions that they are allowed to stand out. With that, we come to my favorite part of the instrumentation: The drums. Like mentioned before, they are quick, sometimes very quick, and never subdued or a carriage to the rest of the band, all the contrary, in fact, really stitching some of the songs together with the high usage of the hi hat and crash cymbals, and constant intertwining rhythms between percussion and double bass pedal.
Of course, we can't talk about Streetlight without mentioning more about the very soul of this band, Tomas Kalnoky, and his vocals. They are as fast as they colorful and full of infectious enjoyment; Very raspy sounding on occasions, but they are never harsh on the listener, and unless you don't enjoy rapid-fire singing, it's not likely to be a turn off for the listener, but it's very likely to be a stand out. It's almost like a combination between a singer in an orchestra and a hardcore punk vocalists, often screaming(Most noticeably on 'Here's to Life') and constantly singing a catchy melody while he holds notes for quite sometime. He takes a front sit on the mixing, and rarely ever goes along with the horns, so noticing his presence is never difficult, but you can easily ignore him if it's not your cup of tea, for the rest of the instruments are loud enough.
On top of all of the previously mentioned, it most said how well the band mates work together, and how well they can mix their inspirations. Streetlight's music is a huge mixture of many influences (This is more noticeable in their sophomore release, 'Somewhere In The Between'), and the fact that every song manages to pull through and stand out on it's own, apart from having a surprisingly different and yet similar feel, proves this. Ska is a heavily criticized genre for being too closed off and limiting; There are many things that you have
to do in order to fit into the category that it's difficult to thoroughly bring something to the table, it's difficult to thoroughly stand out, but Streetlight is not like any other Ska band and everything they do feels well within the reigns of Ska as well out of it. You are sometimes hit by Kalnoky's power chords while the rest of the band sings along in a powerful anthem, being aided by the always on spot drums, or perhaps Kalnoky is just murmuring/whispering a little melody with his guitar while the rest of the band remains silent before(or sometimes, after) exploding back into the craze.
It cannot be stressed enough just how good the horn section is, and how much they add to the overall happy and fun feeling of the music. It is one of the biggest reasons why Streetlight is such a legendary name in the scene and I'll be damned if it wasn't a good reason. Like I said before, the former band members of One Cool Guy posses great chemistry, they often jump around with Tomas' vocals, most of the time they are using the drumming as a basis for the rhythms they provide, however they always manage to stand out, they are always there (when they need to) and are always a highlight, but they never steal the show from any other performance, which goes to show how united the band is: No one tries to display themselves here, they are as close to a band of brothers as they can possibly get.
Now, with all of that said, I go back to my first statement, which is probably still hovering over your mind: "Streetlight Manifesto's Everything Goes Numb
is one of the best albums ever recorded, and Tomas Kalnoky is one of the best frontmen of all time."
Thus far, you are probably wondering "Ok that's cool, but how is it worthy of such a title?", and understandably so. However, while I believe all of those things add up and make it the record that it is, I haven't mentioned why I regard this record so highly.
The reason why I think this are the lyrics. This isn't because they tackle subjects that have never been tackled before, nor because they're some sort of super complex poetry (Which isn't Kalnoky's style since you can tell he always says what he has in mind instead of trying to make it look better).
I think they are the reason this album is so good because of how they are written. This album is one of the most human
albums I've heard, perhaps more than any other, and the lyrics are the reason for that (Mostly). They are written with so much honesty, so much love, and with so much understanding of human emotions, and just what makes someone human, that you can never help but sing along to them, get them imprinted in your mind, and sometimes, tear up because of them.
They handle a variety of themes, and they are for the most part done in either a narrative way or spoken conversation manner(I.E. It sounds like he's talking to you), which is a trademark of Kalnoky's. They help getting you into the situation at hand, be it a life-on-the-rope situation('Point/Counterpoint'), social alienation('Failing, Flailing'), contemplation of suicide('A Better Place, A Better Time'), among others. However they don't always deal with sad themes; Some songs are straight up anthems of life through and through('Here's to Life'), and the songs with sad themes are rarely, if ever, written in a sad manner. Most of the time, they are relatable, down to earth, direct and sometimes even funny, which never feels out of place thanks to the exuberant energy displayed.
As a standout, I want to point out a song that came to me at the right time, during days when I was handling delicate situations among my loved ones, and it made me a different person, more than I noticed I did: A Better Place, A Better Time
Like I said, the song deals with someone who is thinking of committing suicide, a girl referred to as Anny (whom I'll assume is the girl in the cover and could possibly be a reference to Sublime, another Ska band). She has lost all faith, she finds no reason to live, even though she is trying to find it, and anyone can easily tell it's not long before she says "I'm done" to the world. However, unlike many songs on the topic, the song, instead putting you on her perspective, puts on the shoes on an outsider, someone who is obsessed with making sure she doesn't do it and dedicates himself to protect her. This is not only a refreshing take on these kinds of tails, but it's also another reason why this song is so hard hitting; It makes you see just how much you can damage those around you, it shows you that no matter, someone actually does care, even if you're convinced that no one does, and there is someone there who will be there for you when you just want to say "That's it, that's all" (Quoted from the song).
The chorus is one of my favorite parts of the entire album, and it's done in three different styles: Acoustic(near the beginning), regular, energetic version and more start-stop action(near the end). The transitions to each version of the chorus is amazing, and regardless of what version is, the chorus is equally hard hitting.
"And when you wake up
Everything is gonna be fine
I guarantee you that you'll wake in a better and in a better time
So you're tired of living, you feel like you might give in... Well don't
It's not your time"
It is one of the few songs I've ever cried to, and I have, in fact, sang to it with tears in my eyes on occasions. It is truly the heart of this album in my mind, my absolute favorite song from Streetlight(and one of my favorites of all time), and if I were to recommend Streetlight or just good music to anyone this would absolutely be in my mind no matter what.
So, with this, I go back to what I said before: This is one of the greatest albums ever made and Tomas Kalkony one of the greatest frontmen.
Have I done a good job at explaining why I firmly believe this? Have I at least justified my score? I do not know, and being fairly demanding of myself, I suppose I won't know. All I can really say is that I absolutely adore every second of this album, and I believe I always will; In the glorious moments, in the sad moments, in the needy moments, at any moment, this will always remain one of my favorite albums, and I do not see that changing anytime soon.