Back to Gainesville with Less Than Jake

GNV FLABand – Less Than Jake
Album – GNV FLA
Label – Sleep It Off Records/Cooking Vinyl
Release Date – last week I think
Sounds like -The glory days of 2001, playing Mario Kart/Goldeneye and not having a care in the world
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Leaving Warner Bros. records is possibly the 3rd best thing Less Than Jake have ever done. The first being writing an album as stunning as ‘Hello Rockview’ and the second their ‘biggest mosh pit ever’ at Reading in 2003 (I should know, I was there.) Finally free from the clutches of the money-grabbing, record-toning down corporate blow-hards, the ska-punk 5 piece are now able to release what they want, when they want on their own label: Sleep It Off Records. The result? ‘GNV FLA‘ a supposed return to glory days – but is it? Well, let’s see….

Let’s be straight about this, what I heard from ‘In With The Out Crowd‘ was pretty dire. (Hard words for me to say, as I’m a notorious LTJ fan) It was like a really fifth-rate pop-punk band ripping off Chris Demarkes vocals, whilst playing the most watered down mush ever created and passing it off under the glorious Less Than Jake name. Urgh. Thankfully, the Gainesville boys have got over this brief decent into madness and produced something that is more in line with their ‘Borders and Boundaries‘ work.

It’s a sombre, melodic start in the form of ‘City of Gainesville’; light-ska licks, coupled with a distinctly summery brass section and a slow drum beat. Then it suddenly erupts into a fury of punk rock splatter with ‘The State of Florida’ acting as the albums brief, but sprightly one-two punch. It’s the 3rd track where they really find their feet in the form of ‘Does The Lion City Still Roar?’ It’s classic ‘Jake ”“ immensely danceable intro, a cracking chorus and an underlying beat that will capture the ears of fans of old with ease. Unlike their previous two albums, it seems as if trombonist Buddy and saxophonist J.R. have actually been given microphones to record their instruments into ”“ the brass is increasingly prominent and a refreshing and welcomed return to their sound.

Summon Monsters’ sounds like a cut from ‘Hello Rockview’-era, whereas the fruitless-sounding nature of ‘Abandon Ship’ could possibly be directed at the band’s past attempt at stardom on Warner Records, especially in the line “treading water with weights around my neck, a shipwreck of restless accidents.” Perhaps even the line “Give me some forgiveness” could be directed towards those who gave their previous efforts a lukewarm/negative verdict.

What ‘GNV FLA’ seems to have that ‘Anthem’ really lacked is energy and a huge chunk of attitude. ‘Settling Son’ is an example of the terrific pace this album has. It also showcases the band telling the song’s protagonist to basically do something worthwhile with their life and even though it may seem like you’re in a precarious position; “walking the tight rope” it’s better to take the chance and make something of yourself rather than waste it going up in smoke, working in some shithouse factory.

Then again, the song could be about cigarettes.

The catchiest song ever for 2008 award goes to ‘Golden Age Of Negative Ways.’ Twee-handclaps, some outrageously parpy brass and lyrics that hark back to ‘Gainesville Rock City’ song-writing that slaps a huge grin on my face. ‘Conviction Notice’ focuses on financial troubles, with the lines “money can’t buy happiness” and “dollars and cents are not making sense” showing that despite the band’s exuberant, adrenalin rush of punk rock, they’re concerned about fiscal matters, or at least are willing to sing about it.

What sets this apart from other Less Than Jake albums is the way vocalists Chris and Roger compliment each other so well. This is quite possibly their strongest album vocally; both singers singing to an exceptionally high standard for melodic punk rock, with Chris’s gravely drawl sitting nicely next to Roger’s slightly higher-pitched and grimy shout. This is easily their best work since ‘Borders and Boundaries’ and dare I say, possibly better than the 2000 release itself. A fine return then from one of my favourite bands, definitely one for the fans to sink their teeth into and a great starting point for anyone interested in exploring their music to see what the fuss is about – a solid slice of punk rock, with enough ska to keep the die-hard fans waving their arms and shaking their feet until the end of time.

Links

Less Than Jake
Less Than Myspace
Sleep It Off Records
Cooking Vinyl

By Ross Macdonald

Lizard Hips

Lizard Hips

Junior Vice President of Keep It Fast. In other news: I work in social media, talk about dinosaurs, run a book club and have amazing facial hair. I am also a male man who is still not dead.

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