Sound — 9
Streetlight Manifesto has, since their very first album, been putting the chisel to the rock in terms of securing their place as ska top dogs. With their new release, "The Hands That Thieve", they really overdo themselves on another level. The guitar parts are very solid, and start to shine even more in this album than previous ones; with acoustic parts, fun little uke-ish bits, and punk crunches all over. The horn lines really kick some a-s on this album as they have on most of their other releases. Most bands nowadays are trying to branch out and get some new sound that people will love. Well Streetlight has seemingly gone back to their "Somewhere In The Between" sounds, and ramped it up to all new levels. I really enjoy the somewhat dissonant horn-over-horn lines, which add a musical depth that makes your ears scream and sigh in pleasure all together. Some of the horn lines in "The Three Of Us" reminded me a lot of their cover of "Just" on "99 Songs". However, other songs like "Toe To Toe" and my personal favorite "Oh Me, Oh My" are very smooth and really treat your ears to a wonderful music experience. The horn section is an ever improving machine that blows me away every time I hear it. The production on this album also seems to be much sharper in contrast to "Everything Went Numb", and not in a bad way. Some may say it's over-produced for a punk/ska album, but I really thought it was another step towards musical maturity and showing how much the band is in control of their sound.
Lyrics — 8
Kalnoky has always had lyrics that I love, some corny and some in-depth thinkers but hey, no one can be perfect all the time. This album doesn't seem to have as many rhymes and faster-than-light lines, but it does have some very catchy nuggets of lyrical awesomeness. There are quite a few repeated lines, which is somewhat uncanny of Streetlight, but really emphasize the themes and ideas that the band as a whole is trying to convey. It's been a rough ride for them with Victory, and many interpret this album as a narrative of their trials and tribulations with Victory. I personally saw every song as a standalone that told its own story, while together gave an awesome narrative (Victory related or not) of the band and their journey. Music politics aside, Kalnoky does his story-telling lyrics better than every on this album, and makes ever better allusions on these tracks. He really does seem like a deep down thinker that takes his song-writing seriously, and on their latest release Kalnoky seems to really exploit that side of himself. Some of the lines do come across as cheesy or leaving you think "What the hell did that mean?" However, overall the quality of the lyrics keeps to par of the other Streetlight releases, which, if you liked then, you should love now. Tomas Kalnoky sings on this album, in my humble opinion, slightly better than the previous ones. His voice sounds sharper (and not tonally) where it needs to and rougher were his feels shine through. I've always enjoyed how his vocal talent melded with the bands sounds so well, but hey, ska isn't all about the singers talent (especially with Crack Rock Steady!)
Overall Impression — 9
This album was really killer to me. Living in a remote location in Africa I didn't get the hype (if there was any) over this album, so when I got it I had no idea what to expect, other than knowing what Streetlight previously sounded like. Compared to their past albums (which I know back and forth religiously) I think this gives a really nice addition to the ska archives, and is a great point for Streetlight on choosing where there carrier will go: up ever higher or mellow out to those ska legends. Try not to let biases (my personal favorite that people have told me is: "Of course you love them! They are the cliche poster-boys of third-wave!") get in the way of an awesome album that should stay with ska fans for quite a while to come.