Less Than Jake - GNV FLA
Release Date: June 24, 2008
Record Label: Sleep It Off Records
How does a band permeate a genre of music that has become so overly saturated with lackluster acts while maintaining a progressive and innovative approach to win over fans that have fled over their deviation from said genre?
Gainesville ska legends Less Than Jake's latest full-length attempts to answer that question with not quite a return to their roots, but a celebration of everything that's made the band a mainstay in the black and white checkerboard hearts of their fans. Especially those fans who prematurely declared "In With the Out Crowd" to be the final nail in the proverbial coffin. GNV FLA hasn't revolutionized ska punk nor has it ousted it in a pretentious attempt to embrace the sickly pop punk scene overrun with overly feminine hairdos and sexually ambiguous frontmen. No, Less than Jake has eschewed the trends and industry fads as the black sheep of the pop punk elite.
And on that note opening track "City of Gainesville" harbors in a melancholy anthem of hometown woe with a delightfully uplifting horn track and muffled drum loop that allows for some memorable lyrics aligned with bouncy upstrokes and punchy bass lines. Directly subsequent blares in the fast punk antics of "The State of Florida" which lets the fans know that sixteen years haven't slowed these guys down.
The album continues full-force with a barrage of horn laden tunes from the sing-along single of "Does the Lion City Still Roar?" to the working class homage of "Handshake Meet Pokerface". Personal favorites include the introspective "Golden Age of My Negative Ways" which in its bouncy brevity still is a frantic look inside our self-deprecating nature and "Conviction Notice" which features brilliant brass harmonies and a simplistic-yet-catchy chorus that hits hard for all of us struggling to make those bills.
And the inevitable metal-inspired rock of "Settling Son" attempts to spur the underpaid to find meaning in their lives and to never settle. And while "The Space They Can't Touch" may feel a little too reminiscent of "All My Friends are Metalheads" the album concludes with the high-energy tracks of "The Life of the Party Has Left the Building" and "The Devil in My DNA" that will leave LTJ fans pining for more.
What GNV FLA loses in high budget studio sound they make up in pure ambition and musical integrity. Vinnie Fiorello's lyrics are the most defined and witty yet, and the songs are as catchy as ever. The minor downfalls of the album reside in its intent. The album definitely doesn't tread new ground, however it does find new ways to walk down the same antiquated avenues. Definitely making it not just one of Less Than Jake's best, but one of the most solid offerings from the ska punk scene in years. And with the inauguration of their own personal label of Sleep it Off Records we can all look forward to bright things in the LTJ horizon.