Streetlight Manifesto
The Hands That Thieve


3.0
good

Review

by Nathan Flynn CONTRIBUTOR (69 Reviews)
May 1st, 2013 | 45 replies


Release Date: 04/30/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A moment of silence please

This album is not transcendental. In fact, it’s not even particularly original or exciting either. It’s a Streetlight Manifesto album, sure, but it doesn’t seem like it’s the same group who made people question the boundaries of ska music back in 2003 with Everything Goes Numb or dabbled in Eastern European rhythms and let the horns blow the roof off of 2007’s Somewhere in the Between. Quite literally, they aren’t the same group, as long-time trombonist Mike Soprano was replaced by Nadav Nirenberg back in 2010, while they’re also a group whose career has changed them. Being faced with the adversity of being locked into an unforgiving contract they twice tried and failed to void, a bad relationship with their label and constant lineup changes has taken a toll on the once fresh-faced genre pioneers.

But the cruelest taskmaster of them all may have been bandleader Tomas Kalnoky, the self-described perfectionist whose incredible attention to detail has only sharpened over the past ten years- almost to the point where there is no spontaneity or experimentation to be found. It’s no surprise that the one song with a harder edge, verging on punk, “Ungrateful,” is far and away the best song on The Hands that Thieve. It’s bold: the drums push the pace, the horns and bass dovetail in the bridge and Kalnoky delivers a trademark anthemic chorus, but it also isn’t a very interesting song; it lacks any semblance of flair, which is in short supply throughout. There are a few twists sonically, like the Latin-accented “If Only for Memories” and the jazzy saxophone on “Toe to Toe,” but the songs themselves are very blasé. The rises and falls in energy are too sporadic and abrupt to have any sort of impact because they are applied at random.

Streetlight Manifesto’s strength has always lied in its songwriting ability. When Kalnoky is waxing poetic about the brevity of life or analyzing suicide, he is at the top of his game. His lyrics, almost by nature, are introspective while being presented through anecdotes. This maxim holds strong on The Hands that Thieve, but the lyrics tend to rely on trite clichés- David and Goliath, crooked lawmakers, schismatic groups- rather than trying to apply original thought to the overarching theme of triumphing over the odds, ironically a phenomenon the band doesn’t have a lot of experience with. Perhaps betraying his unfamiliarity with coming out ahead, Kalnoky seems overly-invested in his songs, which have been polished so thoroughly there isn’t a single bum note. The sacrifice made with this glossiness is some of the rawness that makes ska an appealing genre. Then again, this isn’t really a ska album, it just happens to have horns.

So yes, The Hands that Thieve is a flawed album, but it’s also a pretty entertaining one; each song is danceable in its own way and is sure to incite much debauchery at live shows. However, this energy doesn’t really translate well onto the record itself. There just seems to be a missing piece, perhaps it’s a lack of volume or too much studio varnish, that makes The Hands that Thieve an unsatisfying experience. Maybe it’s just my fault. Maybe I expected too much from the album going in; maybe I subliminally hyped it up over the three years I’ve followed this group and expected an earth-shattering experience without even realizing it. The thing is, there’s restraint coming out from everybody except drummer Chris Thatcher, who does an incredible job providing a backbone and dictating tone shifts and Kalnoky, whose guitar is turned up louder than ever despite supplying only the most elementary strumming.

This is a Streetlight Manifesto album. Kalnoky will still have you hanging on his significantly downgraded lyrics and the horns will still make you bob your head and smile but the lack of gang chanting and awkward breaks in the action, like the bridge on the title track, kill the mood. Everything about The Hands that Thieve screams of it being Somewhere in the Between part 2, but the band doesn’t have the moxie to execute as well as they could back in 2007. They aren’t phoning it in: certain moments- the choruses of “With Any Sort of Certainty” and "Oh Me, Oh My," the first verse of “They Broke Him Down”- are genuinely exciting. However, the extended moody horn interludes kill the momentum every time. This flaw in song construction is repeated too often for it to be considered anything but a failed stylistic experiment. Frankly, it’s hard to get excited about songs that cut themselves off for 30 seconds at a time or sound insincere; which, unfortunately, categorizes just about every song on The Hands that Thieve.



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user ratings (504)
Chart.
4
excellent
other reviews of this album
Aaron CONTRIBUTOR (4)
Well worth the wait. "The Hands That Thieve" is familiar enough to fit in comfortably with the band...

Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF (5)
What happens when an extraordinary amount of time provided to make an album isn't wasted....

Eli 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 
FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
May 1st 2013


9049 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

x-post from musikdizcovery.com because everyone else is wrong

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 1st 2013


19926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

or you're just wrong ;)

Digging: Transit - Joyride

Atari
Contributing Reviewer
May 1st 2013


19926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

really well-written review but i just don't agree with a lot of what you said

BloodSweatandBeers
May 1st 2013


1007 Comments


suks

greg84
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2013


7421 Comments


c'mon 3 still means it's good by Sputnik standards

Digging: Dope Body - Lifer

ILJ
May 1st 2013


6712 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I'm glad somebody wrote a review that doesn't stroke their dick.

ti0n
May 1st 2013


1471 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ungrateful is the most annoying thing i heard on that album. all other songs are killer. so i guess youre just a hipster.

Digging: ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - IX

DrHouseSchuldiner
May 1st 2013


5643 Comments


Cool rev i wish i pos but sadly i can't

Kman418
May 1st 2013


10783 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

congrats on not knowing what a hipster is tion!!!

but real talk ungrateful is seriously the best thing on here tho so yeeee

Digging: Teebs - E S T A R A

Tyrael
May 1st 2013


20901 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

'it doesn’t seem like it’s the same group who made people question the boundaries of ska music back in 2003 with Everything Goes Numb'

fucking lol

SonofSnow
May 1st 2013


689 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ungrateful is the shiznit.

Digging: Gramatik - Street Bangerz Vol. 2

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
May 1st 2013


2005 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

or you're just wrong ;) [2]

Still a really well-written review, though!

Digging: Thank You Scientist - Maps of Non-Existent Places

BroFro
May 1st 2013


405 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Kalnoky, whose guitar is turned up louder than ever

lack of gang chanting

Wow did you even listen to the album

Digging: Transit - Joyride

Trist66
May 1st 2013


148 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

"It’s a Streetlight Manifesto album, sure, but it doesn’t seem like it’s the same group who made people question the boundaries of ska music back in 2003 with Everything Goes Numb or dabbled in Eastern European rhythms and let the horns blow the roof off of 2007’s Somewhere in the Between."

"Then again, this isn’t really a ska album, it just happens to have horns."

wut

DrMaximus
May 1st 2013


9569 Comments


What [2]

BigSimo
May 2nd 2013


162 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

nice review, definitely agree with your praise of the drummer. he is incredible. this album has too many annoying aspects to be awesome to me, though there's a lot to like. i think the first track is my favorite.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
May 2nd 2013


9049 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

You're gonna have to give me more than just two excerpts from my review if you want me to explain myself.

Azn.
May 3rd 2013


5612 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love them and I'll 5 this eventually, but I think this review was needed

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Cygnatti
May 3rd 2013


21353 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

So is this ska or not? If so, why isn't it ska and or why is it different from other ska other than da punkiness?

Lakes.
May 3rd 2013


28433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it's ska.

Digging: Scott Walker and Sunn O))) - Soused



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