Saturday, December 8, 2007

Streetlight Manifesto :: Somewhere in the Between

Streetlight Manifesto - Somewhere in the Between coverArtist :: Streetlight Manifesto
Album :: Somewhere in the Between
Label :: Victory

In a word :: un-genre-bound

Play this cut first :: One Foot on the Gas, One Foot in the Grave

Man, it's so hard for me to review ska. I mean, it's not that I have anything against it, in general; it just seems to be like the equivalent of genre fiction - you know, so caught up in the things that make it its own genre that it loses sight of the big picture.

So it is with my impression of ska, so caught up with horn lines and upstrokes on upbeats, that it loses sight of the song. One wonderfully notable exception in ska history is Catch 22's Keasbey Nights. That's one album that come s about as close to seminal as a ska record can get. Tomas Kalnoky, mastermind behind that album, has been putting out solid album as the founding member of Streetlight Manifesto, but this time, he hit the mark again on the remarkable Somewhere in the Between.

Kalnoky is cementing his reputation as the Elvis Costello of the genre. A master songwriter whose compositions could easily be played alone on an acoustic guitar and retain the same power.
Streetlight Manifesto - Band PhotoAlongside great arrangements are lyrics that remind one of dorm-room chatter as a bunch of on-their-own young adults get together and collectively figure out life. The conversations are brilliant in their simplicity. Listening to cuts like "Somewhere in the Between" and "The Receiving End of it All" are like reaching personal resolve. The news may not be new, baby, but it's always late-breaking.

The other truly spectacular element of Somewhere in the Between is the performance of the band. Recorded in different places at different times, there is so much energy that it seems impossible that they weren't all in the same room together. To muster that level of performance says as much about the performers as it does the material.

It's bands like Streetlight Manifesto that genres like ska, which don't get time in the spotlight but once every couple of decades or so, owe a great debt to. They keep the spirit alive by turning out great discs when (seemingly) no one is listening. Somewhere in the Between gives people a reason to listen.

Now Playing :: Down, Down, Down To Mephisto's Cafe

The Bottom Line :: Somewhere in the Between is the rare disc that shines in small doses of a few songs at a time or in a straight-through listen. And quite simply, it's the ska album that people who don't listen to ska will love, because greatness is never bound by genres.

Best Cuts :: We Will Fall Together; One Foot on the Gas, One Foot in the Grave; Down, Down, Down to Mephisto's Cafe; Somewhere in the Between, Forty Days

1 comment:

JJ Loy said...

Great review! If you want to try some more traditional Ska with a focus on songwriting and the "Big Picture" you should check out the Slackers.

-JJ Loy