Ah, 1997: the year of ska. Well, ska in the mainstream at least. Ska (third-wave) is defined with an up-stroked guitar and walking bass lines over an up-tempo drum beat. Horns? Optional.
One of the most coveted albums of this time period, and one that would go on to re-define ska-punk, was Catch-22's Keasbey Nights. It showed that ska could be taken seriously and not brushed off as some "goof-ball" phase in music. This wonderful album had fast punk mixed with blazing horn lines and scathing social commentary. At the forefront of the album's writing process was singer/guitarist Tomas Kalnoky. Some call this man a ska mastermind, and right-fully so; he wrote this album in his late teen years.
A few years after this album came out, Tomas left the band to pursue schooling and other things, and no-one really knew what happened.
Fast-forward to 2003.
Tomas returns with other former members of Catch-22 and One Cool Guy to form Streetlight Manifesto. Their debut album? A masterpiece of ska-punk titled: Everything Goes Numb.
This time Tomas is back with the same brand of fast punk and ska, but with a new element: A horn section that sounds more like a orchestral brass and woodwind quartet, rather than a group of annoying, dinky sounding, trumpet heavy, brass and sax players.
This change allows for intricate, moving sax lines and beautiful layers of sound as well as extra bass support due to the addition of a Bari Sax. This of course led to more dark sounding songs, further serving the notion that ska doesn't always have to be happy and goofy.
Now we know Tomas' music is amazing, but oh the lyrics!
Lines like: "Hemingway never seemed to mind the banalities of a normal life, and I find it gets harder every time. So he aimed a shotgun into the blue, placed his face in between the two, and sighed: Here's To Life!" and "Don't forget your family regardless of what you choose to do, you can't decide and they're all screaming 'why won't you?' I'll start the engine but I can't take this ride for you, I'll draw your bath and I'll load your gun, but I hope so bad that you'll bathe and hunt." , show Tomas' way with words, and his anti-suicide stance.
Throughout this album there are elements of Russian music as well as old fashioned Reggae, and everything is placed so perfectly together to make an unforgettable album. This, like Keasbey Nights before it, shows that serious ska-punk still exists in a world of goofy Ska-rock groups with their ridiculous band names and their songs about old people and robots.
So I say thank you Streetlight Manifesto, you've finally given us that something amazing that no-one can laugh at.
I used to think Somewhere in the Between was SM's best, I guess because it was the first one I heard. However, the very first introduction I had to them was a live version of "A Better Place, a Better Time" on a comp I had. Although that version is slightly better with minor variations, the album version is good, and the rest of the album is wonderful! It's surely my new fave by them, and it gets harder to listen to other ska bands the more I listen to them. Anyway, they are working on a new project called 99 Songs of Revoution with some collaboration with other bands, and I'm really looking forward to it. So, great review, check out the album if you haven't yet, as well as their later works!!