Less Than Jake - Greetings From [EP]
Release Date: June 20, 2011
Record Label: Sleep It Off Records
Industry veterans, enthusiasts and cretins alike have all been very pronounced in pointing their finger towards the internetz as the cataclysm that uprooted the music industry. That illegal pirating (in contrast to legal pirating) and market over-saturation has made music no-longer "profitable" and increasingly harder to pursue. And this notion often ties in somehow with how the music industry is in a hell-bound nosedive and music quality, consequently, is caught in its tailspin. But if the homegrown/strictly D.I.Y. "Greetings From" serves up any indication of our post-post-post apocalyptic music offerings, maybe life won't be so bad.
Let's be honest here, Less Than Jake could have phoned this one in and it might have sold almost identical numbers. Everyone in cyberspace has there own opinion on how "good" the songs are and if Less Than Jake have honored "their roots" enough and blah blah blah. This isn't about the past, it's evident Less Than Jake is solely looking forward. And in these gently worn ears of mine the result sounds great. Sure, sure art is purely subjective and all, but in this narrator's humble opinion good music is about relatable, expectation defying music that still carries a distinctive cohesiveness throughout.
The outro of "Life Led Out Loud" is a quintessential example of what's become risky business in the music industry: something different. Now, that's not to say it didn't strike an odd chord with me at first (pun shamelessly intended). And that's not to say that key changes are something Less Than Jake hasn't dabbled with before. But it's their spin on the key change chorus that amuses me.
It's a safe bet that if they did have a producer they would have been strongly urged to just go into a horn interlude a la "All My Best Friends Are Metalheads" or just go straight into another chorus, but this album isn't about playing it safe, and it isn't about leaning on their previous works. It's about riding the fine line between underthinking and overproducing. Small things, like a freakishly rhythmic bong hit in "The Oldest Trick in the Book" or the gang vocal back and forth in the intro of "Harvey Wallbanger" remind me why I loved Less Than Jake in the first place.
The beauty of this EP stems from the pure heart that was poured into it. Lyrically, Mr. Fiorello is as strong as ever, and that's saying something when you have 200 plus tracks under your belt. The lyrics aren't just genuine and relatable, they're as sharp and witty as they've ever been. "I wonder where I'll be at the end of the world. I wonder how I'll get home." And Chris delivers the lines with a perfect glib that cracks a smile across my face every time. As someone who has listened to every Less Than Jake songs more times than they'd like to admit, and has listened to billions of songs from artists in similar genres, it's easy to get jaded at the carbon copied song structures and counterpoints. But somehow amongst a sea of saturation Less Than Jake managed to create inspired, original songs that still stay true to their strengths as a band.
Sure, I could point out every damn similarity to every song they've ever written (there are only so many damn chord progressions to choose from, afterall) and I could easily contrast the production quality against every other album. But that's not the point here. I'm not saying this album is perfect but it is Less Than Jake distilled down to the purest form, there is no hidden motive, no mawkish love songs to reel in the tween girl Beliebers or the Glamberts. Just dudes making music they love.
In theory, an obscure artist has their whole life to work towards their break-through album and it's how much they slave away at making that album that affects the finished product. And after an artist has "broken-through" and been praised at their genius, they can either slave away at making their second album, or trust that their "genius" is just going to flow out of them naturally. The latter often results in what we call a "sophomore slump." Of course, expectations are all that much higher when you're releasing your self-proclaimed "287th" release, but the formula remains the same. And it's clear that Less Than Jake decided to put in the effort here, not just for fan service, but maybe band service as well. I'd like to see any popular band right now record their own album all by themselves. No producers, no engineer, nobody but the raw band sitting in a studio that they built and track an album. Roger Manganelli's engineering gets bonus points by me, and maybe very few other listeners will ever care about all the behind the scenes work that it took to get this EP from idea form to your stereo, but it ain't easy.
If you don't like Less Than Jake, you're not going to start liking them now (unless maybe some girl you've been stalking is into them or something). And I'm sure many people will disagree with me, but all of that is alright. The argument of what "good music" is shall rage eternally. But these five tracks resonate with me in a way music hasn't in a while, and sure you could argue that I just resonate with bad music (dick move, dude!) but if music resonates with anyone, who the hell are we to say it isn't good music? Sure you don't have to believe me; certainly it's worth the measly five bucks to find out for yourself.