By Katie Knowlton

Where We Fell, Here We Stand, the latest album from Saratoga Springs’ Pinstripe Melee, is a fairly straight-forward ska-punk album that has few surprises, but shows a level of talent that is rare for the genre.

Pinstripe Melee is comprised of eight college age students, one of whom attends Stony Brook, making the sheer fact that they all managed to get together to record a good album impressive in and of itself. Where We Fell, Here We Stand doesn’t reinvent the ska genre, or even the ska punk genre, but they combine musical ability with a clear knack for songwriting. There are so many ska bands out there that are not able to combine these to elements successfully, but Pinstripe Melee accomplishes it in spades.

On their MySpace page, the band lists Streetlight Manifesto as an influence, which  is evident when listening to the album. Most of the songs are slower than what Streetlight would write, but still, musically, these tracks sound like they could be Streetlight songs. They even cover a Catch-22 song from their Keasby Nights era, “As The Footsteps Die Out Forever,” when Tomas Kalonky, the front man of Streetlight Manifesto, was their primary songwriter. This influence is especially evident in the horn work. The four people who comprise the horn section combine nicely to create complex and layered parts. They don’t all just play the same thing in different octaves, like so many other bands do. It’s refreshing to listen to a song and be able to pick out the instruments playing different things and still sounding excellent together. KC Conway and Kyle Passen, in particular, caught my attention with their sax work. Normally, I don’t like saxophone, but their parts on “Up For Air,” and “A Thousand Times” were impressive, and made me enjoy saxophone, at least for an album.

The “string” section, guitarist Cory Clifton (the aforementioned Stony Brook student) and bassist John Otto, hold the band down nicely without being overpowering. They have plenty of opportunity to show their talent, and it always works in very well with the song, so it never seems obtrusive. Otto, in particular, showed some pretty amazing chops. It can be easy to listen to these songs and not pick up on what he is playing, but if you sit and actually listen, he’ll blow you away.

The vocals and lyrics are weaker than the music, but that’s not to say they aren’t good. It’s hard to match the talent displayed in the music. Lead vocalist Casey Fein is rough around the edges, and sometimes not in a good way. For the most part, though, his voice works fairly well for the songs. He does harmonize well with Clifton, and it was always a treat to hear the two singing together on a song. Lyrically, there is nothing truly spectacular. No deep metaphors or use of imagery, just songs about friends, girls, and other assorted aspects of everyday life. And that is fine by me. I like my ska straightforward, and Pinstripe Melee delivers.

Where We Fell, Here We Stand is a great album. It doesn’t redefine ska, but for any fan of Streetlight or other ska punk bands, this is a good investment. Hopefully, Pinstripe Melee will be around for a while, playing good music for the masses. You can check out their music at www.myspace.com/pinstripemelee and get more info on the band at www.pinstripemelee.com.