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Less Than Jake - Anthem


Review: Jack Foley

AT A time when American ska-punk rockers seem to be two a penny, Florida's Less Than Jake can at least claim to be veterans of the music scene.

That said, there is a repetitive, heard it all before feel to much of their material, which makes a whole album quite difficult to listen to.

In small doses, Less Than Jake can be quite fun, while attempts to diversify and mix up the guitar-heavy sound prove quite effective, suggesting that the band could have a decent future if they continue to mix it up a little.

Hence, tracks such as Science of Selling Yourself Short, on new album, Anthem, provide a different sort of listening experience - a reggae-influenced record, driven by trumpets and vocals, rather than the incessant, head-banging, guitar-thrashing drivel of tracks such as Short Fuse Burning or Escape From The A-Bomb House (which fails in spite of some pretty incendiary lyrics).

But then, if it aint broke, why fix it? Less Than Jake have been together for 10 years and command the fan base they do because of their ska roots. It would be foolish to think they could diversify that much.

Anthem, however, marks the band's biggest attempt to branch out to date. According to guitarist, Chris, in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine: "When you're a younger band, you get a formula and it kind of works. You want to give fans what they want, and you paint yourself into corner a little bit. With this record, we were definitely able to branch out."

The album was recorded in New Orleans with producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Butthole Surfers) and the Green Day sound is never far away - although Less Than Jake still sound younger and more reckless in their outlook.

Many of the tracks could quite easily crop up on the soundtrack to, say, American Pie, while their appeal probably lies within the dorms of countless spotty campus teens, emerging to be played loud at parties.

That said, there is fun to be had, such as in the former single, She's Gonna Break Soon, which features a hopelessly catchy chorus and some neat trumpet midway through, and the Green Day-sounding, The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out, which features a neat turn from Billy Bragg.

Bonus track, Surrender, is also a good rock-out to bring the album to a close, while The Ghosts of Me and You, a fiery reminder of a failed relationship, actually gives some room for Chris's vocals to shine. This could well be a future single, as could Look What Happened.

Of 14 tracks, there are about six that genuinely stand out. So while fans will undoubtedly lap it up, while bouncing around the bedroom to an accompanying air guitar, there isn't much to recommend the uninitiated.

One final word, however, goes to the artwork on the album, which is well worth checking out. Illustrations accompany every track and have been supplied by the likes of Jeff Soto (jeffsoto.com), Ann Gardner (scarystories.com) David Choe (davidchoe.com) and Mitch O'Connell (mitchoconnell.com).

It's a novel idea and one which works very well.

 

Track listing:
1. Welcome to the New South
2. Ghosts of me and you
3. Look what happened (the last time)
4. Science of selling yourself short
5. Short fuse burning
6. Motown never sounded so good
7. Upwards war and downward cycle
8. Escape from the bomb house
9. Best wishes to your black lung
10. She's gonna break soon
11. That's why they call it a union
12. Plastic cup politics
13. Brightest bulb has burned out
14. Surrender

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