Review Summary: Well worth the wait. "The Hands That Thieve" is familiar enough to fit in comfortably with the band's catalogue, but has enough creativity to make it feel new and exciting.
After nearly seven years since their last full length album, ska outfit Streetlight Manifesto have made a triumphant return with their newest effort, The Hands That Thieve.
Fans rejoiced when the first single released for the album entitled ‘The Three of Us’ was packed with all the goodies they had come to expect from the band. From the blaring trumpets and trombones to an energy level that is unmatched by their peers, the lead single and album opener represents the band at their very best, but not necessarily their most creative.
You see, at first listen it only makes sense that the relentlessly paced lead single or the sing-a-long title track would be initial stand outs. Not only are they two of the most accessible tracks, but they’re sure to please long time fans of the band. However, once you peel away the extra layers, there is much more substance to be found within The Hands That Thieve
than can be heard on an initial listen. Rather than just turning up the volume on every track and playing the upbeat ska we’ve come to known and love, there are some unexpected curveballs thrown on their newest effort. Such as the creative fiesta themed, ‘If Only For the Memories’ which blends the band’s signature sound with spicy Central American influences. With peppy horns around every corner, and Kalnoky’s angst-driven vocals, the song is pulled off with what I like to call Streetlight flair. It still sounds like the Streetlight we know and love, but the delicate use of Latin inspired horns is enough to turn anybody into a natural salsa dancer. More creativity oozes out of the bi-polar ‘Ungrateful’ which starts out sounding like a song from a ‘50s radio station before exploding into an unconventional punk song. The band’s ability to seamlessly mix genres like punk and ska is impressive to say the least, but it’s the little details that act as the glue that holds the album together. Kalnoky has a unique voice that seems to match the music perfectly as it’s full of energy, but just as much confidence. As expected, there’s also no shortage of upbeat saxophones or horns, and it comes as no surprise they often steal the show.
Unlike some bands, who sound exciting at first but quickly grow stale, Streetlight Manifesto are a group of musicians with more than just a few tricks up their sleeve. With a run-time of over 50 minutes, The Hands That Thieve
finds the band experimenting with new ideas, but never straying from their sharp focus. It’s also worth noting that there is virtually no filler throughout its lengthy runtime, which is an accomplishment all of its own. Although it may be too soon to say if it’s their best work, it certainly makes it a close call. Fans will be pleasantly surprised, while new listeners will be drawn in by the album’s creativity and various musical influences. We can only hope we don’t have to wait another 6 years for a ska anthem-fueled ride like this, but for now I plan to immerse myself in The Hands That Thieve.
It has more than enough twists and turns to warrant many returned visits, and it’s a thrill each and every time.