REVIEW: Streetlight Manifesto – The Hands That Thieve


Artist: Streetlight Manifesto
Album: The Hands That Thieve
Genre: Ska

Ska music has a bad rep these days. It’s gotten to a point where people consider it lame when you say that you’re listening to ska, like you’re some sort of leper who listens to Top 40 radio. “Skas Dead!” they all say. While yes, some ska is kinda lame, ska that is done well is some of the most exciting music you can hope to hear. Saying you love Streetlight Manifesto is basically cliché at this point in the game, but I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they’re absurdly popular, or maybe it’s because when you ask some frat dude on your college campus if they like ska, they’ll answer nine times out of ten “Oh yeah totally! I love Streetlight Manifesto!” That’s a blessing and a curse for fans, because when that band you’ve loved for a long time hits such heights where they’re more of a household name you perplexingly find yourself not wanting to like them as much. Loving a band that is fantastic and still small enough where you can feel really cool and “in the know” is fun, and don’t try to act like it isn’t. However in the case of Streetlight Manifesto, they’ve proved time and time again that they know how to put out fantastically written records that not only resonate with their listeners but also draw new and fresh people into the pit. The Hands that Thieve is yet another entry that brings something new to the table, but the group still bring that sound you’ve grown to love over the years.

The incredible amount of layers that Streetlight Manifesto have woven throughout The Hands That Thieve is simply amazing. With a band of seven members featuring tons of different instruments that is kind of necessary, but Streetlight makes it sound like an effortless process. One of the things I’ve always loved about Streetlight Manifesto is their ability to meld lots of different styles into their ska-punk sound. “If Only For Memories” sounds like the backing track behind a scene from a film set in downtown Miami. “They Only Broke Him Down” is a mosh pit warriors dream filled with an aggressive circle pit part to start us off, transitioning into a fast skank section, then slowing us down to catch our breath before just starting all over again. You can tell that the main focus of Streetlight Manifesto’s time is to not just create “ska” music but they want to create an experience that is both loud, fun, but technically sound. I don’t know why I’m surprised this album is so fun; every single release by them is so wonderful. This is not a band that botches one of their records because they don’t know where to go with their sound. Streetlight Manifesto knows exactly what they’re doing. They know what they want to bring to the table, and then they deliver. Plain and simple, Streetlight Manifesto is one of the tightest bands musically working today.

Lyrically, The Hands That Thieve is about staying strong in the face of adversity. Considering the history of the band and all of the crap they have gone through, it’s absolutely refreshing to hear such a positive outlook still intact. The last song on the record “Your Day Will Come” encapsulates what I think is the central core of Streetlight Manifesto’s message all these years. We have songs of protest, songs of struggle, but at their core the band has always kept the focus on knowing things will get better one day. While admittedly the genius of Streetlight Manifesto hasn’t necessarily been about the lyrical content, this record has a strong message that most certainly gets you passionately singing along. Life doesn’t have to suck and be filled with sad songs all the time, and Streetlight Manifesto is a reminder that the world really isn’t all that bad.

The Hands that Thieve could be the last Streetlight Manifesto album for a really long time, if ever. As you probably already know, Streetlight Manifesto’s tours this Summer are gong to be their last for awhile, and while it’s a shame, it’s a move I’ve come to understand. Nobody wants to get burnt out half-assing a live show, and with everything the band has gone through with their label it probably is best to end everything on a positive note before things start to get really sour. While I can’t honestly say if this record was made with the intention of being the last, The Hands that Thieve isn’t as much about saying goodbye as it is celebrating all of the fun and love that has been shared over the years. If you do one thing this Summer, it will be picking up this record, getting into your car with a bunch of friends, and blasting the whole thing with all the windows down on your way to Streetlight Manifesto’s “The End of the Beginning Tour.”

SCORE: 9/10
Written By: Tyler Osborne

Tyler Osborne

Live in DC, grew up in PA. I specialize in writing, filming and taking pictures about punk, pop-punk, and hardcore music, and I also have a huge background in film as well. When not on the site, i'm running my own internet radio show, ToZ's Edge Radio ( I also love stage diving and goldfish.
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  • Is this a band review? Muahahaha. Tozzy. That guy.

  • An Hero

    “Loving a band that is fantastic and still small enough where you can
    feel really cool and “in the know” is fun, and don’t try to act like it
    No, literally no one gives a shit, unless you’re a skinny-jean hipster who hates all things cool and popular.

    You care way too much about what people think about you, that’s probably why you’re a critic/blogger in the first place tho, phaggot.

  • Zeph

    All very nicely put! Great review!

  • Misconception that they tried to clear up on their website. They are breaking up or taking a hiatus. They’re ditching the label (Finally) and they’re no longer doing FULL TIME touring. They are still a band, they’re still making music together, they’re still going to make records (on their own), and they’re downsizing things to local shows, smaller venues, possibly short tours and colleges and festivals. But in no way are they taking a hiatus or breaking up. Get it right, bro.

  • Very constructive and enlightening. Thank you for your outside perspective. Phantastic.