Review Summary: Streetlight's music doesn't as much hook you as it catches you, whacks you on the head, and brings you home for dinner with a side of boiled baby potatoes.*Warning: any skanking while reading this review will not be tolerated, and will be punishable by death.*
Ska-punk has always been a strange genre for me. It's not that I don't like it, it's just that I never thought about it at all before. I remember checking out a certain Reel Big Fish once, but their efforts soon bored me into forgetting about them. I soon put the whole genre into the backwaters of my mind, and moved on to bigger and better things.
After a year or so, I keep hearing the name Streetlight Manifesto being tossed around the internet. So, since I didn't have anything to do that day (as I usually don't), I decided to check them out.
Boy, let me tell you, that is probably one of the better decisions I made that day! (though there weren't really that many contenders)
Streetlight Manifesto are:
Josh Ansley - Bass Guitar
Chris Bailey - Auxiliary Percussion
Jim Conti - Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone
James Egan - Trombone, Trumpet, Tuba
Steve Ho - Gang Vocals
Tomas Kalnoky - Guitar, Layout, Lyrics, Music, Photos, Producing, Recording, Vocals
Robbie Krieger - Cello (Track 12 only)
Paul Lowndes - Drum tracking, Drums
Dan Ross - Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone
Shane Thompson - Auxiliary Percussion
Natalia Ushak - Cover Model
Streetlight's music doesn't as much hook you as it catches you, whacks you on the head, and brings you home for dinner with a side of boiled baby potatoes. It is unbelievably energetic and bouncy, and you'll find yourself bouncing on your chair while hoping that no one is seeing you making an idiot out of yourself. And all this (well, most of this) is the creation of one mastermind, Tomas Kalnoky.
Tomas Kalnoky is the ex-frontman of fellow ska-punk band, Catch 22, famed for making the classic Keasby Nights, and going down the crapper right after the album. Tomas soon left the band in order to further his education. In 2003, Tomas returned to the scene with a band of his very own, the ever so delightful Streetlight Manifesto. Seeing that Kalnoky left the band right after the band release KB, and seeing that he also made most of Keasby Nights, quality is definitely garaunteed. Not before too long, anyone who is anyone in the alternative scene started noticing them, and today they are one of the more popular bands in the underground music scene (though their underground tag would probably soon turn invalid, seeing that they are now signed on Victory).
Everything goes Numb is Streetlight Manifesto's debut album, and they went for straight for the jugular from the word 'Go'. Nope, this is not some "I know this album is not that good, but we're maturing, and the next one will be better" album. The instrument playing on here is as tight as it ever could be, there's no filler tracks at all, and the song-writing here is as good as it'll ever get. One big thing about Streetlight is the fact that they're not just some punk band adding ska horns to their sound. The horns actually lead the sections most of the time, which is a rather pleasant surprise, seeing that I'm a horn-man myself (trombone for anyone who wants to know), sometimes introing the tracks, and you'll get the occasional solo horn breakdown. Stylisticly, they go on a trip throughout the lesser-known South America, playing swinging ska chops, and also the more subdue latin parts. The horns usually follow each other, but sometimes, a horn would break out and do a part on its own.
The guitars, though not as present as most bands of today, still plays a vital role on the record. It's what makes Streetlight ska-punk instead of ska, by giving the band its punk sound and energy. Kalnoky might not be the greatest guitar player, like any punk rock guitarist, but he does the job well and he's playing is energetic. He doesn't rely on the distortion too much too, and his clean guitar strumming gives the ska parts its energy. The bass guitar, however, really stands out in this album. Not only is it loud and clear, it also doesn't just provide the low end of the sound. It plays its own lines without following any of the other instruments, but it also fits into the song like a key in a lock, which is pretty cool seeing the number of things that goes around it. It's bouncy, and infectious, and it just plains rocks.
I can't mention this album without mentioning the drums. It is just that good. Paul Lownde is probably one of the best drummers in any genre right now. He isn't the backbone of the band, he's the skeleton of the band. He doesn't just play a groove and fast fills, he could make groovey fills. Not the best way to describe it, but it is hard to describe. Let's just say he makes rather complicated but infectious grooves that you just can't help but jump along to. He doesn't overplay either. knowing when to play what, whether it's a good rhythm, a fill, or one of those complicated drumlines as mentioned. Definitely top-notch stuff.
Finally, we have the vocals. Tomas seems as if he's trying to cram as many lyrics in a line as possible, and, what's more, he could pull it of too. There are many a time where I have tried to sing along, only to find myself tongue-tied most of the time. Can't help it though, since Tomas has a knack of lyrics that not only has a message, but also catchy in such a way that you can't help but sing along to. You'll soon find yourself proclaming that you have a gun that won't won't cock, or how that you will wake up in a better place and a better time, or how it was the best night of your life. It is that infectious.
Everything goes Numb is definitely a big surprise for me, but definitely a good one in the end. Before this album jumped and hopped into my life, my limited memories of ska lead me to think that the genre as a rather boring one. This album changed my perception completely. It manage to acheive a balance between ska and punk, thus making the ska parts punk and the punk parts ska, and not just punk with ska parts added on. It's loud, it's obnoxious, it's so catchy that you'll probably need to be quarantined, and it is probably the most energetic piece of music I have listened to for a long time. So, what are you waiting for" Get out of your chair right now, listen to the album,and live for once in your life.
Hell, pick any one. Every song is a gem.