Tomas Kalnoky describes himself as “a bit of a perfectionist”–but he is also a bit of an asshole. The Czech-born ex-singer, guitarist and primary songwriter of fourth-wave New Jersey ska band Catch-22, who endured an enthusiastically un-amicable breakup in the late ’90s, has got himself a new band: Streetlight Manifesto.
Tomas Kalnoky describes himself as “a bit of a perfectionist”–but he is also a bit of an asshole.
The Czech-born ex-singer, guitarist and primary songwriter of fourth-wave New Jersey ska band Catch-22, who endured an enthusiastically un-amicable breakup in the late ’90s, has got himself a new band: Streetlight Manifesto.
And what was on Kalnoky’s agenda after forming in 2003? Completely remaking the only good album that Catch-22 ever put out, the legendary Keasbey Nights, but this time with all-new musicians backing him. It’s a huge slap-in-the-face for his former bandmates.
Many rock stars are arrogant, and only rarely do they have good reason. In this case, Kalnoky has every right. Streetlight Manifesto is a thousand times better than Catch-22 ever could have been, and every one of the three albums they’ve put out together is extremely legit. You cannot argue this, for it is a fact. I implore everyone to take the trek uptown tonight to see the Manifesto destroy the Satyricon with their particular brand of trombone-fueled debauchery and super-fast, super-danceable songs.
Streetlight Manifesto’s most recent record, Somewhere in the Between, released in November, is everything you might expect from this collection of boardwalk-walkin’ maniacs. Kalnoky has developed immensely as a songwriter over time. His lyrics are mature and not at all goofy–a common criticism of the ska genre.
Kalnoky’s aforementioned perfectionist approach comes in handy here, and on all of Streetlight’s records. Every song seems like it was written with much more thoughtful deliberation than is often put into producing punk music, and the songs are often full-on epics, with many exceeding the five-minute mark. Songs from Somewhere in the Between such as “We Will Fall Together” and “The Blonde Lead the Blind” serve as a good introduction to the band, showcasing their signature style.
A point that I feel needs to be strongly emphasized here is that the drummer for the Manifesto, Chris Thatcher, is fuckin’ phenomenal. And the re-recorded Keasbey Nights (in its new form called Keasbey Nights II) showcases this fact.
When you take the two records and put them side by side, it should be easy for even the layman ska listener to hear the difference. Both records are highly virtuous and highly listenable, but in terms of actual, honest musicianship, Streetlight Manifesto takes the cake. And that’s mostly because of Thatcher’s unrelentingly speedy drums. (The addition of a brand new brass section helps as well.)
The vocals sound more or less the same, but you can definitely tell that Kalnoky has been practicing his gee-tar since he left Catch-22, honing his abilities with an intermediary side project called Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution in his downtime.
Obviously, the reason you should spend your hard-earned money to see Streetlight Manifesto (and other, more local ska bands) is because their live shows are ridiculously fun. Combining the pure energy of a group like the Suicide Machines with the craftsmanship and precision of a classical composer, a Streetlight show offers a wide-ranging, ever-changing variety of tempos. Any modern human (or shit, even Cro-Magnon) can justify dancing their face off. It’s an offer I’ve been waiting all year long to take up.
with Zox Satyricon at 7:30 p.m.$14All-ages