Somewhere in the Between, by Streetlight Manifesto
Suggested by Alex Hamilton
I hate live music.
Let’s consider a gig. You buy a ticket well in advance, a downpayment on future fun, from a dodgy website lest you suffer the fiscal indignity of being fleeced by the touts. You hopefully avoid anything that would curtail your attendance, such as tragedy or pandemic, or band illness / public sexual indiscretion. Eventually, you’ve then got to go to the damn thing, car journeys and parking and babysitters and scheduling and nightmarish logistical minutiae.
You stand in a room for hours, dripping into a watered pint, rammed up to people who are larger, sweatier, angrier, prettier, drunker, happier, younger and healthier than you, encroaching on your personal space and pogoing on your sense of decorum. You watch the band, wedged behind a pillar near the bar or jammed between a barrier and a biker’s armpit. You lose yourself in the music, but they don’t play your favourite song. Your neighours spill their drinks on your overpriced t-shirt from the merch stall. A full forty percent of your concentration is spent on avoiding being glassed.
You think it’s over, but the band insist on a protracted encore. They play your favourite song, but you’re too tired to care. There’s a two hour queue to get out of the car park and a ninety minute drive home, as you stew in your stinking Nissan Micra, sweaty and deafened by tinnitus, convincing yourself the whole torrid ordeal was worth it.
Fans of live music wear gig attendances like Girl Scout badges. You say you like a band, and they reply “Yah, I saw them live at Berkshire Diddleflaps ’08”, expecting a pat on the head. Whenever I hear such boasts, I counter with “You did? I’m sorry, that sounds awful.”
Streetlight Manifesto sound like a wonderful live band. And as such, they’re not for me.
Looking at the ingredients, there’s a lot to like. Streetlight Manifesto ply an energetic musical trade, with punk-metal riffs and funky basslines bolstered by boisterous brasses. It’s hi-octane, not letting up for the full ten-track experience. You can dive right in, and go. Perfect live music fare, I’m sure, demanding you leap from peak to peak without a rest stop or water station, fuelled by the crowd, or narcotics, or a bloodyminded refusal to quit.
There’s the rousing gallop of We Will Fall Together, full of traditional-tinged brass and quirky punk vocals. It’s the vocals that guide the musical direction of the band, as while they are a decent example of what they are, what they are is one dimensional. It’s hard to vary the menu when the singers can only make a shepherd’s pie. The songs barge into the room, mosh against the walls, then stagger out to make room for the next. Down, Down, Down to Mephisto’s Cafe, The Blonde Lead The Blind, What a Wicked Gang We Are… it’s brassy, and direct, and relentless.
It is enjoyable. It’s just so exhausting. My favourite track is One Foot on the Gas, One Foot in the Grave, with a more reflective open before oinging and boinging back into familiar territory. My old bones were hard pressed to keep up with the intent of the music, never mind the overwhelming physical reality.
Somewhere in the Between gets a tiring 6/10 from me. It’s a jolting bolt made for the dancefloor and concert hall, not for my living room while I’m questing naptime. If you like it live, it’s worth a shot. I’m sure they’ll rock the house at Berkshire Diddleflaps ’21.