Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve

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Review by Ian Savage

Victory Records

This is an interesting proposition. Where most bands herald the release of their latest album with a flurry of upbeat promotional activity and continent-straddling tour schedules, ska-punk survivors Streetlight Manifesto announced before unleashing The Hands That Thieve that after spending the rest of 2013 on the road supporting it, they would be retiring as a touring band and “changing our approach to what we do with the majority of our time”. This seems largely to be the result of an ongoing and bitter dispute with their record label, which culminated in February with the band urging a boycott of their own material and merchandise through Victory.

Even as a Johnny-come-lately to the band’s work, on the strength of THTT this reviewer misses them already. Despite ska-punk being a well-trodden path often veering off into self-parody over the last decade or so, Streetlight Manifesto provide a refreshing twist on the genre, with salsa and Mexican-infused horn flourishes over guitars equally happy skanking or pounding and bass alternating between bubbling and grooving, often in the course of a single song.

Highlights come thick and fast. Opener ‘The Three Of Us’ sets out the stall early, a strident trumpet motif playing in equally forthright vocals; the title track contains a stirring harmonised ‘We won’t look back’ lyric; ‘If Only For Memories’ comes damn close to tear-jerking despite its jaunty tempo; and there’s barely a moment in between that doesn’t command attention. Right up to closer ‘Your Day Will Come’, there’s a palpable sense of frustration and anger throughout, and from the band’s side of the story rightly so.

It’s a true shame to see such a promising vessel potentially dashed upon the rocks of record label politics, especially as ‘The Hands That Thieve’ is a practically perfect example of how good modern punk can be. One way or another, if you’ve even an passing interest in brass-enhanced punk rock, you NEED a copy of this album – their show at the Wolverhampton Civic on May 27th might be a good place to pick one up. See you at the bar.

Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve9 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. The Three Of Us
  2. Ungrateful
  3. The Littlest Things
  4. The Hands That Thieve
  5. With Any Sort Of Certainty
  6. If Only For Memories
  7. They Broke Him Down
  8. Toe To Toe
  9. Oh Me, Oh My
  10. Your Day Will Come