Streetlight Manifesto: Somewhere in the Between

Chris Conaton

Ska-punk isn't dead, it just went back underground. Streetlight Manifesto prove there's still life in the genre.

Streetlight Manifesto

Somewhere in the Between

Label: Victory
US Release Date: 2007-11-13
UK Release Date: 2007-11-19

Back in the mid-'90s, when ska-punk was at its peak, there were dozens of bands all around the country playing it. Bands you barely remember like Buck-o-Nine and The Urge had ska-tinged radio hits. But like most musical trends, this peak was brief, and when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones unlikely mainstream success began to fade, so did most of those other bands. Today, only a handful of groups soldier on, most of them firmly back in the underground or opting for a more palatable power-pop sound.

Streetlight Manifesto is in the former category. Back in the '90s, Streetlight frontman Tomas Kalnocky sang, played guitar, and wrote all the songs for the band Catch 22. But he quickly soured on the band, leaving them after one full-length album. A few years later, he tried again with Streetlight Manifesto, and they seem intent on sticking around. Somewhere in the Between is the band's second proper album (they re-recorded that one Catch 22 album, Keasbey Nights, in 2006 under the Streetlight moniker), and it's quite an accomplishment. Kalnocky is a truly gifted songwriter, throwing musical curveballs throughout this record. His melodies are catchy without being cloying, and he takes care not to get locked into repetitive verse-chorus-verse song structures. The tunes also have ample space for the talented members of his band to fill in with interesting bits.

The album kicks off with "We Will Fall Together", a quick, bouncy, minor key song that would be a solid, three-minute opener for most bands. But Streetlight Manifesto stretch it to nearly five, fleshing out their musical ideas, including a main horn riff that's completely separate from the song's chorus, an opening trombone solo, and a cool saxophone solo that leads into the bridge. Next up, "Down Down Down to Mephisto's Cafe" contrasts the first song with a more traditional major key ska-punk tune. It also contains the album's most irresistible chorus, which Kalnocky is careful not to overuse. It shows up twice early on, and then the song ebbs and steadily builds back up to the final reappearance of the chorus near the end. "One Foot On the Gas, One Foot in the Grave" careens wildly through three or four distinct styles over its five-and-a-half-minute length, but drummer Christopher Thatcher and bassist Peter McCullough hold the song together ably and keep it from falling off the rails, making it one of the album's most interesting tracks. "The Receiving End of It All" may be the highlight of the disc, with Kalnocky's best, most urgent vocals describing a hopelessly broken relationship and a highly effective acoustic guitar-and-bongos break in the middle of the song.

Thatcher and McCullough ably and creatively handle the rhythm duties throughout the album. Thatcher's drumming is loose and jazzy, taking advantage of his entire kit, while McCullough's playing is active but sensible enough to stay in the background. The band's horn section is excellent, with two saxes, a trombone, and newly added trumpet player Matthew Stewart. All four can really, really play. These are not guys who were in high school band and then joined a ska group on a whim. It's clear that they've all practiced their instruments extensively, as their horn lines are intricate (not just unison brass bleating), and their solos fit nicely within each song.

If there's one weakness in the band, it's Kalnocky's singing ability. He doesn't have a great voice, but he does sing with emotion. He's improved noticeably from the band's first album, though, and sax player Jim Conti gives Kalnocky a boost with strong harmony and backing vocals. The band also makes effective use of gang vocals and shouts in many spots on the disc. Streetlight Manifesto is understandably overlooked outside of their niche, but they're making really great music that pushes hard to expand the boundaries of the ska-punk genre.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.