Streetlife Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve

Disclosure: This is my first introduction to the New Jersey ska-rock band. From what I’ve garnered from a brief internet search, there was a lot of buzz about this release. There was a dispute with the label. The band instructed their fans to… not buy the album… It was leaked, and the entire collection can be found on YouTube with next to no effort. When listening to the album, you can tell that the musicians singing in the album had no idea what sort of massive bureaucratic, corporate cluster-fuck awaited them. They seem so happy singing and rocking in the album. These are voices that had no idea that their income would essentially boil down to t-shirt sales. Ironically, the second song’s chorus yells, “Hey, I don’t wanna seem ungrateful. I don’t want to seem like I need anyone’s help.” I think God opened up the skies, looked down and said, “Really now? Have you met my friend Gob?” (For those of you who don’t read the Bible, Gob was a really great guy and because of it God let Satan ruin his life because apparently the Devil is a troll and God is every thirteen year old girl singing Taylor Swift songs on Youtube.)

As far as the music goes, it is a technical wonder. It took me a minute to get into the fast tempos and become accustomed to the lead singer’s voice, which I’m not overly fond of. That being said, the tempo changes are all really classy. The horn sections really shine. Between the raucous rampages, the band throws in some quite serene moments that bring to mind the basement recordings of aspiring musicians who are sure to enjoy the technical splendor of Streetlife Manifesto. I hear this, and it does not surprise me that they tour well, and are no strangers to headlining or selling out shows. It may not be my particular cup of tea, but I can appreciate the musicianship that went into this truly remarkable collaboration.

If you can get around the [what’s a very diplomatic way of saying different, but intermittently unpleasant?] vocals, there is nothing to dislike. The most irritating part is that in those forty second breaks when everything slows down, and the flavors of Neutral Milk Hotel and other indie favorites trickle through, it is revealed that they are completely capable of singing like normal human beings.

I am glad that there are musicians, real musicians, going toe to toe with their corporate representation. I hope they win. They probably will just find another label. These guys seem like the types who are more interested in creating good music as opposed to engaging in legal pedantry. Their little spat with Victory Records will hopefully generate enough buzz to sell the stickers they’re trying to sell. Much like the late night dispute between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, I’m not overly invested in who comes out on top, but yeah go team Coco, and go team Manifesto.

Your refusal to not scream in every song is detrimental to your album, and will shorten your touring life-span considerably.  And remember, support the artists by… not buying the album… which is really good so definitely listen to it… but pirate it…?

By Eric Wong

Eric is a writer from San Francisco. Being Asian, he was forcibly inducted into classical music and choirs at a young age. So clearly, he knows what he's talking about.

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