Review Summary: Less than Jake, back on form, back with a bang.
Less than Jake are a happy days band. There’s no two ways about it. From the ska-core of ‘Liquor Store’ via the hyperactive ‘All my Best Friends are Metalheads’ to the laid back ‘Science of Selling Yourself Short’, they have a load of brilliant tracks, punctuating a very strong back catalogue, perhaps with the exception of what was their latest - overproduced, underwhelming ‘In With the Out Crowd’.
This new record, ‘GNV FLA’ is a different beast from that disappointment and is very impressive. It is rawer (for that don’t read lazily tracked, it just feels more powerful and earnest), the horns have been turned back up, and put back in, at full blast for most of the record and it’s just faster throughout. In fact, at some points on the record I would almost describe the combination of downbeat blue collar hometown lyrics and upbeat melodious ska as glorious. They’re strongest as ever when talking about their hometown, and issues that are truly important to them.
One of my favourite things on this record are the regular vocal trade offs between Roger’s syrupy singing and Chris’ gruffer refrains. When they combine to sing at the same time, like on some lines in ‘Settling Son’
, it sounds brilliant. There is a great pace to the record, which drops off a little during the middle section (tracks 8, 9 and 10), which individually don’t make bad songs, but are the weakest segment, but then picks back up again for a fantastic closer, ‘Devil in my DNA’
. There is also a bonus track on the UK version of the disc, which is pretty solid, and has a strong chorus.
Lyrically the album is successful, never seeming forced or contrived, if never completely masterful. The words hit home though, particularly with ‘Handshake Meet Pokerface’,
when Roger, singing about a woman trying to provide a life for her two sons, calls out ‘She said the overtime is worth the aches and pains / but is it worth the precious time that ticks away / every second everyday’. Lyrics that may not to apply to us in that situation, but the idea of the feeling of helplessness about time passing by resonates, as we spend our time completing menial tasks and chores.
Single ‘Does the Lion City Roar?’
is a brilliant amalgamation of the horn heavy, light sugar-ska of the first song and the punk rock of the second. Speaking of those two tracks (‘City of Gainesville’
and ‘The State of Florida’
), one leads into the other with consummate perfection. This effect is often used badly (see The Offspring’s track ‘Lightining Rod’ on Splinter for an example of that).
This CD was one of the rare occasions when I listened to a CD and actually enjoyed it first time. The aforementioned middle section lacks a bit, but generally this record is very strong, and I would thoroughly recommend it.