Within the last two years since I started this blog I’ve written about many bands, specifically ones that I find appealing. If you’ve been following for a while, you know my music tastes have changed over the years and you also know the bands that brought about those changes. More often than not though, I write about bands that I currently like with a few old band interests thrown in every once in a while. However I’m surprised I’ve never once written about any ska bands (unless you count Rancid since they have a few ska songs).
Although I had heard ska songs before, I became more interested in that style of music as a junior in high school. A friend of mine made me a mix tape that included several ska songs because he loved ska music. We ended up becoming best friends throughout our senior year (even forming a band) and my love of ska music grew. One of the first ska bands I was ever interested in, dating back to that junior year mix tape, was Streetlight Manifesto.
Streetlight Manifesto out of New Brunswick, New Jersey was formed in 2002. The band came together when Tom Kalnoky of the band Catch 22 decided to recruit other members of Catch 22 and members from the band One Cool Guy to make music together. The band initially recorded an EP under the name Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution before they began releasing music as Streetlight Manifesto. Streetlight’s first album Everything Goes Numb was released on August 26, 2003. The group’s second album was a re-recorded re-release of the Catch 22 album Keasbey Nights. The new Keasbey Nights featured a few musical and lyrical changes from the Catch 22 version. It was released in 2006.
In November 2007, Streetlight Manifesto’s third album Somewhere in the Between was released. The album featured all original tracks by the band much like their first album. The band then released a collaborative project album with Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution (BOTAR had many of the same members as the original Streetlight Manifesto lineup) that included an album consisting entirely of covering songs in 2010. The project was called 99 Songs of Revolution. The band’s most recent album, The Hands That Thieve, came out in 2013. Throughout the years Streetlight Manifesto’s lineup has changed multiple times with founder Tomas Kalnoky being the only original member. Recently the band experienced legal issues with their label Victory Records after a few years of bad relations. In October 2015 it was reported that Victory Records filed a lawsuit against Kalnoky for not fulfilling their record deal of releasing four albums under the label.
Streetlight Manifesto plays a ska punk style of ska music. Ska music originated in Jamaica in the 1950’s. Reggae, which is typically associated with Jamaica, was derived from ska music. The style combines elements of Jamaican folk music, known as mento, and Afro-Caribbean calypso with American jazz and R&B. A distinguishing factor of ska is a walking bass line with accented rhythms on the upbeat. Another distinguishable trait of ska is the use of horns like trumpets, trombones, and saxophones. Streetlight’s style combines ska with fast-paced punk rock similar to the style of bands like Rancid, Goldfinger, The Suicide Machines, Less Than Jake, and Reel Big Fish.
Aside from the legal dealings, Streetlight Manifesto has been non-existent in the music scene for the past few years. They’ve also been sort of non-existent from my life for the last 5 years or so. By the end of high school and through college, I listened to Streetlight Manifesto and plenty of ska bands. Then indie music happened and my ska punk days faded away. Even though I don’t listen to Streetlight Manifesto regularly anymore, I still appreciate them and the fact that they are a part of my music history. As I wrote this post, I listened to several of my favorite old Streetlight songs. I sang along like I used to 6-9 years ago and almost had the desire to get up and skank (a style of dance used when dancing to ska music). Here’s a few of the songs I listened to and some you need to check out because Streetlight Manifesto is one of the best ska bands around:
- Keasbey Nights
- On & On & On
- We Are the Few
- The Big Sleep
- The Three of Us
- Dear Sergio
- We Will Fall Together
- Somewhere in the Between
- Everything Went Numb