My wife and I went on our first date to a Streetlight Manifesto show. I was the angsty emo boy (bangs, hoodie), she was the ska girl (hopelessly cheery). Luckily, Streetlight Manifesto are the perfect convergence of those sensibilities, then as now, and if it took the New Brunswick band far too long to release a follow-up to their stellar 2003 debut, Everything Goes Numb, then maybe the perpetually delayed Somewhere in Between is a good argument for waiting patiently.
The band, led by former Catch 22 frontman Tom Kalnoky, writes disposable, relentlessly bouncy melodies that frame his wistful observations about relationships and self-reliance: On opener “We Will Fall Together,” he declares, “No one will catch us, so we’ll catch ourselves.” It’s a resonant image for Streetlight, who in 2007 find themselves with a killer sound, an eclectic tone (jazz-inspired ska, anyone?), and no tangible connection to the punk community. The kids want operas and eyeliner, not third-wave two-tone. It’s a problem that Kalnoky has anticipated. “And the gears will spin and the sinners sin/But at least we’ll give them hell,” he howls defiantly on “Down, Down, Down to Mephisto’s Café”; elsewhere, he offers a self-deprecating prediction: “They will not remember this song/No matter what we’ll do we’ll be wrong.” Like the best George Roy Hill characters, they are men out of time. Hopefully, there are still people who want self-effacing emotions set over saccharine-sweet horn sections; it’s the best kind of music for a first date.