There's something inherently ebullient about third-wave ska, where the ramped-up energy level and punk rock touches seem to imbue the music with a certain amount of energy and enthusiasm. For the most part it feels like party music, which isn't a bad thing by any stretch, but it means that it takes a special something to pull it out of the realm of fun-time jams and into something deeper. On The Hands That Thieve, Streetlight Manifesto accomplish just such a feat, delivering an album of bittersweet ska-punk that feels more grown-up than anyone could have expected the genre to be. In a way, it feels as if Streetlight Manifesto have been imbued with that same New Jersey magic found in bands like the Gaslight Anthem (who also hail from New Brunswick), where no matter what it is they're trying to do, there's always a kind of poetic earnestness lying under the surface of their songs. On the surface, it's easy to get pulled in by the driving guitars and the upbeat horn arrangements, but just below them sits an autumnal undercurrent, and while a lot of ska bands can make records for partying, it's a rare thing to find a band that can make one for a lonely walk on a fall day. And anyone who enjoys the album should be sure to check out its sister release, The Hand That Thieves, a more laid-back, acoustic reimagining of the album by Tomas Kalnoky's solo project, Toh Kay.
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AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney