Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Searching For a Former Clarity: Streetlight Manifesto “Somewhere in Between”

At this point, it is a non-issue to profess that Ska is dead. Not even Ska, really--the idea of it; the movement; the scene. As far as "sub-cultures" go, it all but dried up back in the late nineties with little to no awareness. This is not news. It is interesting, however, to see the fruits of that movement’s labor flourish in the light of day.

There is no 4th wave of Ska on the horizon--not yet anyway. The lads in New Brunswick’s own Streetlight Manifesto (maybe the last great Ska band bred from the 3rd wave) recognize this fact and do the damn thing anyway. Whether it is their deft use of classically stylized brass, their jazz influenced structural choices or the romanticized misanthropy that front man Tom Kalnoky wields to his advantage at any given moment; Streetlight Manifesto possess a pain and a poetry that is carefully calculated to ring true, relevant and, above all else, resonant.

Streetlight has always been able to set up an interesting dance between the cathartic, intense and joyous aspects of life. Though their latest (long awaited) album entitled Somewhere in Between leans toward the gloomy side of things at times, it follows the aforementioned lines fairly well. As per usual, Kalnoky can seem a bit immersed in the hapless melodrama he positions around himself occasionally. However, the band is elevated by an ardor and devotion that shines through any angst ridden persona that is brought forth.

Moreover, Somewhere in Between strikes a delicate balance between careful framework, grim emotion, and jumping exuberance that makes the music as satisfying as it is impressive. This is a very rare occurrence when it comes to Ska bands in particular. More often than not, Ska bands (especially 3rd wave ska) are slaves to structure and normality; Streetlight Manifesto, on the other hand, seem to take particular pride in finding the unique tonal and harmonic structure for each particular song. Somewhere in Between is a massively controlled and intense showing of Streetlight’s talents as writers, musicians, and craftsman.

While the scene kids may not be ready to start skanking again just yet, Streetlight Manifesto remain true to their name; the lonely poet under the spotlight of the moon, singing until he has no voice. It’s a sad vigil, but a logical continuation of the story. Let us not forget what Chinaski said, "The greatest men are the most alone."

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