While Pete Wentz is busy introducing even more ‘woe-is-me’ music into the mainstream, it is good to see that musical integrity still exists. Somewhere In The Between, Streetlight Manifesto’s newest release (since re-vamped Keasbey Nights of 2006), is a strong follow-up to their debut album Everything Goes Numb (circa 2003). It hit stores Tuesday.
This time around, the Jersey boys present more brooding subject matter alongside phenomenal music. On the whole, it’s a dark album that tackles topics such as sin, death and the validity of faith.
There are several degrees of difference between Everything Goes Numb and Somewhere In The Between. The past four years have seen several changes in the band’s line-up and an obvious maturity of mind – the lyrical integrity of this album attests to the latter. Despite the coming and going of musicians, the band (as it stands now) is musically on point. Ska sounds perky by nature, so it takes some real talent to make it dark.
The album opens with “Down, Down, Down To Mephisto’s Café,” a relaxed acoustic track that quickly turns to the trademark catchy, upbeat ska, in which singer/guitarist Tomas Kalnoky asks some profound metaphysical questions: “Way back when the prophecies began/Do you think it really had a master plan/Or were they merely writing fable stories?”
“Would You Be Impressed?” is a song about denial and acceptance, reminiscent of Everything Goes Numb’s “Point/Counterpoint” in its content. It is one of the catchiest songs on the album and its flavor falls somewhere in between Spanish tango and gypsy dance. The song is a poignant look at death, with lines like, “Would you be upset if I told you we were dying/And every clue they gave us was a lie/ Oh they meant it when they said we’re dead and doomed.”
The song closes with a sudden grasp at faith before death, when the vocalist proclaims: “And when I woke, I knew that it was time to pray/To make amends before the end, before my judgment day.”
Somewhere In The Between moves from extreme pessimism in “Watch it Crash” (“And there ain’t no turning back/When our train is off the track/And there’s nothing we can do but watch it crash”) to cautious optimism in “One Foot On the Gas, One Foot in the Grave” (“We might just make it after all on our own”).
The album’s title track has the swinging feel of a drinking song, but it has a moment of classical structure in the middle that brings to mind bar lines and
measures. It is the perfect pick for the title track, bittersweet in all its glory: (“And someday soon, my friends/ This ride will come to an end/And we can’t just get in line again”).
Although fans may be disappointed that the band’s ever-popular “Ants Go Marching” is not on the album – I know I was – Somewhere In The Between is just as sharp musically as anything else they’ve done. This third-wave ska band’s combination of punk and classical regimen is as addicting as ever.
Unlike some ska bands that seem to weed out the brass as they progress (i.e. Less Than Jake), there is no shortage of horns here. There are several notably raucous trombone solos and one particularly catchy videogame-esque guitar solo (“Forty Days”). This album has the ability to make subject matter that would seem depressing in any other genre pleasant and uplifting. It is not better than previous releases, nor is it worse.
The album is simply different.