TAP HER ON THE SHOULDER, TELL HER LIFE GOES ON.
Of the Streetlight Manifesto albums that I could have reviewed, this is most probably the weakest, but due to details that I shall outline, I consider this to be an album which represents freedom, determination and doing what you believe is right.
This is an album drenched in controversy within the ska-punk scene. Lead singer and guitarist, Tomas Kalnoky, had previously released the same album with his former band Catch-22. Same songs, same lyrics. “Why would he do such a thing?” I hear you ask. At first it would appear that he was merely trying to grab up some more money, but the truth of the matter is that after Kalnoky left Catch-22, the rest of the band continued making music together. Now, amongst fans of modern ska music, Catch-22’s original version of Keasbey Nights is considered the defining album of fourth wave ska (that’s right, we’re into ska’s fourth wave of popularity!) and the band had planned to re-release the album as a limited edition with bonus video content and whatnot. However, they were not going to re-record the songs. Having found out about this, Mr. Kalnoky was not a happy man and offered to re-record the whole album with his new band, using their own money. Thus, Streetlight Manifesto gave birth to a more polished, and ultimately more rewarding, Keasbey Nights.
Sonically, it far surpasses the original in every way; the vocals are audible this time around and the trumpets and sax treat your ears to punching harmonies that carry every song beautifully. One of the main draws for me is the ingenuity of Bass. Too long had I listened to bands that stick with a very simple bassline, rarely changing notes throughout a song. But with Keasbey Nights the basslines are given a “walk-about” feel; notes seemingly plucked at random bouncing around, between and over the rest of the music. Somehow, it works. The whole package mixes together to create a happy and uplifting sound.
With an interesting contrast to the very cheery and hyperactive sound of the music, Kalnoky’s vocals are a grimy shout with often serious lyrics. The title track and ‘9mm and a three-piece suit’ both deal with gang warfare and the inevitability of death in that kind of situation. With ‘As The Footsteps Die Out Forever’, Kalnoky deals with the death of his mother at the hands of cancer, wailing almost tearfully over the brass. Almost every song though, however depressing the lyrics at first seem to be, always come back to the main theme of Keasbey Nights (and also, all of Kalnoky’s work). Live life to the full. That is all that Tomas Kalnoky wants everyone – including himself – to do. The best example of this on the album would have to be my favourite song ‘On and On and On’ which showcases Kalnoky’s superb vocal skills amazingly well; carrying on with life, no matter what, is the message sent here and I can’t think of a more uplifting theme for an album.
With the re-make of Keasbey Nights, Tomas Kalnoky has produced a startling album that urges listeners to be happy and do what they want to do despite what others may think. The album ends with a short interview with Kalnoky discussing why he decided to redo the album, in which he concludes: “we’re going to keep doing what we do, whether or not a single record is sold…whatever you want to call it, we’re going to piss people off and that, at the end of the day, is all that really matters.”
So, I urge you to give Streetlight Manifesto a listen. I dare you not to be moved by what you hear. Keasbey Nights is by no means Tomas Kalnoky’s greatest work, but for me, it was the beginning of a love affair between myself and some of the happiest and fun-loving, but also serious, bands that I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.