Review Summary: The hype train has officially pulled into the station…
…and it’s brought with it one hell of an album. After 6 long years of waiting, Streetlight’s rabid fans have finally gotten what they have wanted in The Hands That Thieve
. The ska-punk giants are back one last time (hopefully not) with a record that not only lives up to the massive amounts of hype surrounding it, but also manages to not show any decline in quality from their previous two essential releases. The Hands That Thieve
is the best path that Toh Kay and company could have taken from Somewhere in the Between
and is a fantastic example of what happens when you leave a group of great musicians 6 years to compose an album.
As most people reading this probably know, Streetlight Manifesto have reached the beginning of the end of their career. While The Hands That Thieve
is the record that finally ends their contract with Victory Records, the band has recently announced that they are going to stop being a full-time touring band and begin to move on to new chapters of their lives before they grow old of doing what they love to do. However, that doesn’t mean Streetlight is done forever, in fact, they’re not even breaking up. In the “goodbye” message on their website, Tomas even hinted that they may just record new music in the future. Now that they’re free of their parasitic label, we can all hold fast hope that they’ll give us another classic, but for now, it feels right to treat The Hands That Thieve
as Streetlight’s last hurrah. But hell, if they want to take another 6 years to make one more record like this, that’s just fine by me.
First off, The Hands That Thieve
does not show the band completely re-inventing their sound, or even dabbling in genres that they haven’t before. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s any less interesting or exciting than any of their previous albums. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” is a phrase that would fit perfectly here. Streetlight Manifesto have given us yet another record brimming with their unique sound that has catapulted them to 3rd wave ska fame.
That’s not to say that “nothing” has changed since Somewhere in the Between
and Everything Goes Numb
though. The first thing I noticed when listening to The Hands That Thieve
is that the pace of the record is not as fast as a normal Streetlight effort. Songs like Toe to Toe
and Oh Me, Oh My
are some of the slowest material the band has ever written and turn out all for the better. The slower pace allows the listener to more immediately access Tomas’ lyrics and hear them compliment the horn solos and other instrumentation that keep the songs interesting. The Hands That Thieve
also has much more acoustic guitar than Streetlight Manifesto records past. Tomas’ Takamine makes an appearance on about half of the record and adds a texture that we’re not accustomed to hearing in a Streetlight album. The band also sounds much more in balance than they ever have before. The horns and drum-work don’t overpower the rest of the band, but take a step back and let the other elements of the music come through.
While it’s not as relentlessly fast as their previous releases, The Hands That Thieve
doesn’t let up at all. The band delivers 10 knockout songs one after another in typical Streetlight fashion. The Three of Us
starts the album off in a similar way to We Will Fall Together
with a minute-long horn intro that’s sure to have everyone screaming “NA NA NA NA” along with it at their shows. Catchy horn hooks paired with a short sing-a-long chorus are sure to get this track stuck in your head after the first listen. Ungrateful
starts with a clean picked guitar and muted trumpet intro before turning into one of the most dynamic and best songs Streetlight Manifesto have ever written. The fast-paced punk verses and the atmosphere of the song remind the listener of something off of Everything Goes Numb
similar to the second half of A Better Place, A Better Time
. The rest of the record continues in a similarly perfect fashion. The lyrical content of the record seems more personal than that of Somewhere in the Between
and more in the vein of their first release as Tomas is as good with his pen as ever. The band’s sound-defining horn section is as exciting as ever and doesn’t seek to overpower the rest of the band, but complement them. It would be a waste of time to go through and talk about each and every track on the album because every single song is different and as good as the last. The Hands That Thieve
is a continuation of the consistency that separates Streetlight Manifesto from their peers.
While influences from past records are present and familiar, Streetlight Manifesto creates a new sound on The Hands That Thieve
. It is still typical fare for the band, but the songs won’t leave you drawing endless comparisons to Somewhere in the Between
and Everything Goes Numb
. While it would be easy for the band to just create a carbon copy of their last record, it’s clearly evident that they spent the time and effort to create something that, like their older records, truly resonates. There isn’t a single song on the album that you can forget about and not a single one worth skipping. The dudes in Streetlight Manifesto gave 6 years of their life to make this ma-ska-piece; it’s pretty damn easy to give 50 minutes to listen to what they’ve created. Many Times.