Streetlight Manifesto
The Hands That Thieve


5.0
classic

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
May 1st, 2013 | 15 replies | 2,113 views


Release Date: 04/30/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: What happens when an extraordinary amount of time provided to make an album isn't wasted.

There are a lot of artists out there who have taken an absurd amount of time to release albums which are flag bearers for the term “hype.” While the six years it took for Streetlight Manifesto to release The Hands That Thieve doesn’t exactly compete with the 15 it took for Axl Rose to dump Chinese Democracy, it does prove that the time Tomas Kalnoky and company took was much more wisely invested than the six years a band like Metallica took to crap out something like, say, St. Anger. Much more wisely invested.

But that should come as no surprise. Streetlight Manifesto has always been a band that’s paid dividends on time and effort and they’re a group who have simply never disappointed or failed to innovate. Never. Even with an album of covers, the band managed to shirk stagnation with moves like transposing the electronics of “Such Great Heights” into a magnificently arranged brass arrangement. So why was there any doubt that The Hands That Thieve would achieve anything other than perfection?

Aside from the rising sentiment that any hyped album is doomed to crash (and violently, at that), the only real evidence left in the courtroom is Somewhere in the Between. While it’s an album that’s great enough on its own, following Keasbey Nights and Everything Goes Numb, Somewhere in the Between felt like a certain wind-down for the band. In retrospect, it’s an album not unlike an adolescent phase between Everything Goes Numb and The Hands That Thieve – one which struggles (albeit in a very subdued and subtle way) with adding new facets while staying true to form.

Yet, if Everything Goes Numb is the caterpillar and Somewhere in the Between is the chrysalis, The Hands That Thieve is, without a doubt, the resulting butterfly of Streetlight Manifesto’s patience, maturity, and evolution. That’s not to imply that the group have gone the way of the Rx Bandits and shifted gears into unexplored dimensions, but there’s a good degree of fine-tuned experimentation amid Streetlight’s practiced approach to ska on The Hands That Thieve that seems to bring things full-circle for the group.

For example, lines toward the end of the title track seem to converge as a follow-up to the lyrical themes of “A Better Place, A Better Time” while “Your Day Will Come” ties in with “The Big Sleep.” In each case there’s a progression – a maturing of perspective expressed both lyrically and musically. Though the lyrical continuity can’t be said to pervade every aspect of the album, the maturity certainly is a lasting thread, with “If Only For Memories” literally conveying the sentiment of growing up and moving on to bigger and better things with an absolute mood of positivity.

Perhaps that’s the biggest difference between The Hands That Thieve and the rest of Streetlight’s discography. While Everything Goes Numb was a ponderance on life and, at many times, a talking down from the ledge, The Hands That Thieve seems like a cautious affirmation that continuing on was the right choice (“With Any Sort of Certainty” ) and a bold affirmation of the same sentiment musically (“If Only For Memories”). Yes, there are still tracks which play toward the somber side (“They Broke Him Down”), but for the most part, Streetlight are still a band who play their downtrodden moments in tongue-and-cheek high spirits (“Oh Me, Oh My”). Nothing new to ska, there.

Yet The Hands That Thieve finds grace in a collage of striking moments that aren’t necessarily long-lived. The slow island strumming and blues trumpet that lead into the frantic “Ungrateful” where the group are at their most punk influenced; the sunrise-over-a-valley military regalia intro of “The Hands That Thieve”; the ‘70s-inspired theme of “If Only For Memories” which, when combined with its first few stanzas reminds me of The Lion King for some reason – all of these and more are excellent examples of the innumerable ways that The Hands That Thieve digs its claws into the listener in new and exciting ways. Oh, all of that and grooves and styles that you know and love from previous Streetlight albums (see “The Littlest Things” and “With Any Sort Of Certainty” for the most “traditional-sounding” Streetlight tunes on the album) which also contribute neatly to that whole “full-circle” thing.

With all of that, what’s not to love? The Hands That Thieve is an exceptionally well-crafted Streetlight album which deviates enough to gleefully assert its independence while retaining hallmark character. There’s not a misstep to be heard on the album and Kalnoky’s lyrics are as poignant as ever. It may not be as immediately striking as Everything Goes Numb, but The Hands That Thieve has a replay factor at least equal to the band’s landmark release and a host of tunes which are equal in power, but very different in tone, making the two albums equally-sized cities at opposite ends of the same nation. It’s got to be good when they’re both made out of gold, right?



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user ratings (478)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Aaron Arneson CONTRIBUTOR (4)
Well worth the wait. "The Hands That Thieve" is familiar enough to fit in comfortably with the band...

Nathan Flynn CONTRIBUTOR (3)
A moment of silence please...

Eli Kleman EMERITUS (4.2)
“I felt no pain ‘till I was down and I was told that I was bleeding. And even then I knew I was...

El Hombre de los Arboles (5)
The hype train has officially pulled into the station…...


Comments:Add a Comment 
AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2013



1918 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

So here's my essay on the subject. Surprised there aren't more. Sputnik's really reigned it in.

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
May 1st 2013



48547 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Rite on



Digging: The Hotelier - Home, Like NoPlace Is There

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2013



9476 Comments


Very nice, man. Glad to see you're digging this so much.

Also, "Kalonky" in the final paragraph!

Digging: Koan Sound - Dynasty

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 1st 2013



18613 Comments


nice review man

"the ‘70s-inspired theme of “If Only For Memories” which, when combined with its first few stanzas reminds me of The Lion King for some reason"

lol really? i'm getting more of latin american / salsa dance vibe.

Digging: Somos - Temple of Plenty

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2013



1918 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Very nice, man. Glad to see you're digging this so much.

Also, "Kalonky" in the final paragraph!


Bleh, shit that happens when I wrote that at work last week during downtime...

EDIT: Or that I wrote right before bed last night and proof-read a bajillion times already.

Yiesh. I'm slipping.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2013



1918 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"the ‘70s-inspired theme of “If Only For Memories” which, when combined with its first few stanzas reminds me of The Lion King for some reason"

lol really? i'm getting more of latin american / salsa dance vibe.


Could be the whole "they held you up" thing along with the positive, south-of-the-equator vibes. I don't know - it's what kicked into my head when I first listened to it and I can't shake it. It's totally flower-power-y, though.

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 1st 2013



18613 Comments


i hear you, i just wasn't getting a 70's vibe. the lion king thing actually kind of makes sense lol. but yeah it's definitely one of my favorite songs.

joshieboy12345
May 1st 2013



5256 Comments


Might check this out. 4.3 average rating is too good to ignore.

Digging: For The Fallen Dreams - Heavy Hearts

ProjectFreak
May 1st 2013



1155 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album's Everything GOES Numb...

But. Great review. Even though I think SITB is a good bit better than this, this is extremely well-written.

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2013



1918 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Did I write WENT in there somewhere?

Jesus, proper nouns are killing me, apparently.

EDIT: Fixed it. Thanks for the catch! The lyric always makes me jumble the album title.

I really think that both albums are at least equally good and just very different.

MadMikeLove
May 1st 2013



651 Comments


maybe being a streetlight fan excludes me from rating, but yea, album's perfect.

Great review would pos if i could.

NightmareCinema16
May 1st 2013



2016 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Yeah, a well written review, I say.

demigod!
May 1st 2013



40970 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

tom kalonky lol


sounds funny

Gwynbleiddsfang
May 1st 2013



363 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album Rating: 4.5

Might check this out. 4.3 average rating is too good to ignore.


DinosaurJones
May 9th 2013



490 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It occurs to me that I have rated all 3 "original" streetlight albums as 5's. Do I lose my credibility to vote on them?



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