The Hands That Thieve... Not pictured: the aforementioned hands
Review: Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve
Published on May 21st, 2013 | Rob Abrams
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The horns are blaring like a Latin American air-raid siren. The bassist is knocking off more notes than would be found in a teenager’s diary. There are more jingles and sing-alongs than could be mustered by Old Saint Nick himself after one too many egg nogs. Yep, third-wave Ska royalty Streetlight Manifesto have returned with their fourth album proper The Hands That Thieve.
I must admit, I was sceptical when I heard about “The Hands That Thieve”. Having overplayed every last manically thrashed-out hook Streetlight Manifesto have had to offer in their 11 year existence, I felt I knew what to expect. My very first play of the opening minute of the album confirmed my cynicism. Returning to it later on, I discovered how far predigest had led me astray. Let’s explore a few of the key moments!
Following the release of such a game-changer as 2007’s ‘Somewhere in the Between’, you would have to forgive Streetlight Manifesto for taking so long to get back in to the studio (“But Rob, they released that album of covers in 2010!” COVERS ALBUMS DON’T COUNT, YOU PONCE! Ahem). Let’s be frank, a lot of bands simply fall from grace when trying to live up to past success. In this context, how important was it that Streetlight Manifesto usher in their new album with the musical equivalent of an axe-wielding maniac kicking a door in and shouting “Here’s Jonny!”? I would say quite important.
No drawn-out intros, no pretense; opening track “The Three of Us” is all balls on the table, so to speak. Streetlight Manifesto have the amazing ability of making you sing along, regardless of whether you know the lyrics or not, or indeed no matter who may be watching or listening. Heck, the commuters in that Bank-branch Northern line tube carriage are lucky I didn’t start skanking on my seat.
“The Littlest Things” has it all. From the Latin ska introduction to that combination of cranking, distorted guitar riff and blasts of horn that Streetlight Manifesto have perfected over the years. This song flits between shout-alongs and grandiose, hummable horn-lines with such mind-boggling ease that it’s amazing to think that Streetlight Manifesto fans attend their concerts without a spare pair of underwear. “Don’t listen to anyone telling you anything isn’t true, because it’s all relative”, except if what they’re telling you is that this song is in anyway bad. Because then they’d be simply wrong.
The acoustic prowess of Streetlight Manifesto truly shines on “If Only for Memories”. This song would have even the most prudent of hipsters dancing like the proverbial embarrassing uncle. The precision with which it delivers its flamenco/ska/punk amalgamation pays tribute to the journey the band have taken over the past decade. They have really matured, perhaps in the most immature of ways, but you would have to be as miserable as Nigel Farage on a trip home from Scotland not to love it. It’s less a song, more a miniature, audible party.
In the un-soppiest way possible, it’s easy to fall in love with “Toe to Toe”. In fact, physical practicality pending, I intend to take it on a luxurious date to the fanciest restaurant in London and propose to it. We will have many children, all of whom will be one-hit wonders; pun intended. You see, in the age of the digital download, CDs can still play a useful role.) “Toe to Toe” is the musical equivalent of your best mate taking you to the pub to cheer you up after you find your pet gerbil belly-up in a little pile of coke.
We all have that one mate who thinks it would be funny. It’s not funny. Don’t feed class A narcotics to gerbils.
The lyrics and chords are unashamedly simple, yet serve more purpose than even ten carbon-copy Mumford and Sons clones (and there aren’t enough of those about, are there?). All of this is complete with some jazzy tenor saxophone and trumpet interludes. How can a song be so silly yet so amazing? “I don’t know, I don’t know, said the man with all of the answers”.
According to recent statements from the band, Streetlight Manifesto will be greatly scaling back the amount they do. So, it is absolutely imperative that you make the most of this band before it’s too late. They’re currently on tour in the UK and Europe, so now (or soon) is the best chance you’re going to get.
Why should you see Streetlight Manifesto live? Have you ever been to a show and seen a large, muscly douchebag get beaten up by a skinny kid in a zoot suit? Well I have. I’m a Streetlight Manifesto fan.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
The Hands That Thieve is out now on Victory Records.
For more information, please visit the official Streetlight Manifesto website.