It seems that over the course of the last three or so releases from Less Than Jake, many of the band's followers have become increasingly frequent at voicing the opinion that... Well, that the band are going downhill basically. Some have simply pointed out that the horns aren't being quite as much as they'd like, while others have insisted that with every occurence of new material LTJ are becoming too poppy or mainstream. Let me be the first to point out that if you hold either of these opinions, you will equal parts elated and disappointed by In With The Out Crowd
However, let me also be the first to put to rest any ideas of the band going downhill. In my opinion, Hello Rockview
saw LTJ utilise the better production opportunities they had to inject more energy and impact to the distinctive ska-punk sound which they had honed on their early albums and EPs. Borders And Boundaries
saw them focus more on the rockier side of their sound. The much-maligned Anthem
(incidentally, an album which I think was very underrated, despite the huge amounts of criticism it received) and it's companion-piece B Is For B-Sides
saw the band focus more on songwriting, and incorporated all the elements that had previously made their music so distinctive. So, where could the band go from here"
First off, In With The Out Crowd
is a further expedition into poppier territory, but like Anthem
before it, it features a wide range of styles. Opener Soundtrack Of My Life
is sung by Chris, and is reminiscent of the more straight ahead pop-punk songs from a couple of years ago (with a cheeky recycling of the Gainesville Rock City
riff, see if you can spot it!). Probably the best choice of opening track, it gets you in the mood for the rest of the record. Howver, by the second track the band have already thrown a curveball...
The intro to A Still Life Franchise
is eerily reminiscent of Johnny Quest Thinks We're Sellouts
(strange to think that that song is over 10 years old now!), before kicking into a bouncy, yet laid back ska beat, complimented nicely by the JR and Buddy's trombone and sax. After the harder hitting chorus (which is again full of horn-work) the ska returns with a vengeance. Or more accurately, with a effective ska-organ having been added to the mix. However, it is this song which first points out the main downfall of In With The Out Crowd
; namely the production. The backing vocals in the chorus sound like the "choir/aah" voice on your average keyboard! Not a good thing in my book. Also, although they are audible, the horns could do with being much higher in the mix. Compared with Hello Rockview
, they sound positively muted here! The song is definitely a highlight, but marred by production.
Overrated (Everything Is)
is definitely the She's Gonna Break Soon
of In With The Out Crowd
, as not only is it the first single, but it is also incredibly poppy, simply structured (both musically and lyrically), and devoid of any horns (or if there are any, the production values have rendered them non-existant). However, despite what may seem like negative description, I have to admit that this song has grown on me hugely. The vocal melodies are among the catchiest LTJ have put to record, and the backing vocals aren't as strange-sounding as those of the previous track.
sees Roger take the lead mic for the first time on the album, and harks back to the more straight-ahead rock sound of Borders And Boundaries
. Despite the lack of horns (again), it manages to impress, with one of LTJ's heavier moments in the intro, a little harmonised guitar solo (well, sort of...), and a catchy chorus, it manages to impress, although not one of the best on the album.
If Fall Apart
is remeniscent of Borders And Boundaries
, then In-Dependence Day
could quite easily be an old B-side from that very album - the instrumental style and vocal melodies point to that very idea! However, this is no bad thing. It's all about straight ahead pop-punk/rock with a great vocal performance by Roger (one of his catchiest tunes yet). The only gripe I have with this track is the fact that the horns are a little low in the mix - they should really be driving the song (the intro especially), but instead, there are times where you do struggle to hear them.
Don't Fall Asleep On The Subway
sees Chris take lead vocals again and reminds me very much of the more punk-orientated tracks from Hello Rockview
. Again, the horns aren't as loud as I'd like to hear, but at least they're audible, which is an improvement, and the general catchiness of the song, replete with "hey hey!" backing gang vocals here and there, makes for a solid, fun track.
I nearly did a double-take when I heard the beginning of Landmines And Landslides
- the verse section and Chris' vocal melodies sound like something right out of a Fall Out Boy album! I can look past this, as I don't mind FOB, but if you're not a fan, I'd imagine this would really begin to grate. However, Roger comes in for the chorus with a massive soaring melody, and both this and the bridge section are very LTJ.
Whoa, well THIS is a departure! The Rest Of My Life
is a mid-paced number, kicking in with a clean, reverb-drenched guitar line, over subtle acoustic chord strumming. As Chris begins to sing, a subtle keyboard/organ line adds atmosphere to the proceedings, before the chorus arrives with catchy, yet sad-sounding lines such as "It's gonna kill me, the rest of my life/Let me apologise while I'm still alive"
sung with the same melody as the opening guitar line. The last chorus sees strings (violins") being added to the sound. This is the nearest LTJ have come to a power ballad - you'll either love it or hate it, but personally, I view it as a successful venture onto new musical ground.
is ushered in with a chirpy little horn-driven intro (and I think I can hear some form of Xylophone, but I may be wrong). It's quite unique in that it doesn't really sound like any song they've ever done before. Again, Roger's vocals carry the song, but the production has rendered them so high in the mix, especially in the chorus, that they team up with the backing vocals to drown out the horns. However, in the last two choruses this seems to have been altered for the better (which begs the question, why wasn't this done throughout the whole song"). Overall, this comes out as an above-average song, but not one of the best.
If you're one of those who longs for the band to return to the Losing Streak
sound, you'll love Let Her Go
. A fantastic bass driven verse, complete with ska beats and upstroke guitar, and gang backing vocals, breaks into the rockier chorus with some nice vocal harmonies. The song seems like a slightly less chaotic version of How's My Driving Doug Hastings
from Losing Streak
, which is most definitely a good thing!
is just plain boring. Aside from the odd catchy vocal line, this is pretty much an average mid-paced rock song, which really should have stayed on the cutting room floor. I'd much rather they'd included Only Human
(a B-side which was recently put up for download on iTunes) instead of this.
To their credit, Less Than Jake have saved an absolute cracker to end the album with. P.S. Shock The World
. The song kicks off with a prominent (for once!) and catchy horn line, over a bouncy little ska-beat. Roger's vocals are perfect throughout the verse, despite being slightly lower in pitch than he usually sings, and get slightly more aggressive in the pre-chorus, accented by stabs of sax and trombone, before a soaring chorus. Ska-fans will be happy to know that there is even a trombone solo! Basically, this song combines all the best elements of LTJ and crams them into three-and-a-half minutes of greatness!
I haven't mentioned drummer Vinnie yet, but it appears his contributions to the music have gone both ways... One the one hand, his drumming, which has always been functional rather than fancy, is still as solid as always, but features slightly more variation than before, which is a good thing. However, his lyrics (he writes all of them), are rather repetitive. It seems every song he writes these days is about "leaving town" or "getting out of here" etc. etc. This works well in some places, but does sound forced at times. I suppose his themes could be seen as a signature trait of LTJ, but a little variation in that field wouldn't go amiss. However, this is a small criticism, since I've been singing along to the aforementioned lyrics since I first got my hands on this album (and all LTJ's earlier albums for that matter!).
To sum up, In With The Out Crowd
is eleven excellent songs (plus one painfully average number, but we can let that slide can't we") that showcase each and every facet of LTJ's distinctive sound in the best way possible. Whether or not this is better or worse than various earlier albums is a matter of opinion, but taken on it's own merits, In With The Out Crowd
is an excellent record, and one that Less Than Jake should rightly be proud of.
Musically, I think it's worth a 4 rating, but the horrible overproduction which affects several parts of several of the songs warrants a slight drop in the rating, and so I give In With The Out Crowd
Chris Demakes - Guitar & Vocals
Roger Manganelli - Bass, Vocals & 2nd Guitar (occasionally live and while recording)
Vinnie Fiorello - Drums & Lyrics
Buddy Schaub - Trombone & Bass (whenever Roger plays 2nd Guitar live)
Peter "JR" Wasilewski - Saxophone