Less Than Jake

Greetings From EP

According to the band, Greetings From is Less Than Jake's 287th release. We don't hate our interns enough to make them properly factcheck that, but judging by this writer's personal LTJ collection, it's probably not that far off. Even though they're approaching 20 years in the business of ska-punk (and judging by the current Warped Tour penchant for all heavy, all the time, business isn't so good right now), Less Than Jake still manage to deliver five peppy rock songs that don't sound jaded or feel dated. The problem is that with such a vast back catalog to draw from, and a relatively limited sonic scope in which to write new songs, these tracks don't feel essential—or even all that original—by any stretch of the imagination. For example, the midtempo “Goodbye, Mr. Personality” bears more than a passing resemblance structurally to “The Science Of Selling Yourself Short”—one of the band's biggest hits—only with guitarist Chris Demakes on lead vocals instead of bassist Roger Manganelli. Then, just two tracks later comes “Oldest Trick In The Book,” the bridge of which also rubs elbows with “The Science Of Selling Yourself Short,” only with Demakes and Manganelli switching vocal roles. (The former of the two new tracks is the better one, with an elastic bassline,  bold horns and a fun opening guitar riff that gets revisited a few times without getting played out.)

This happens with practically every “career” band—there's a reason you can recognize, say, a Bad Religion, NOFX or Pennywise song within about four seconds. LTJ have more than honed their signature sound, so it shouldn't be surprising that these songs sound like (gasp) Less Than Jake. And to their credit, when the band bump up the metronome, as they do on “Life Led Out Loud,” the energy and excitement is there—there's no question that it will successfully start many a circle pit this summer on Warped. But even then, the track can't be left alone: Had it ended at the 1:45 mark, you'd have a quick rager that's sure to be a fan favorite, but instead, the song continues on for another minute with an extended coda/outro in a different key that feels tacked on and unnecessary. Ironically, if you were to cut the song at that point, it would be just as long as EP opener “Can't Yell Any Louder,” a similarly uptempo, perky number—so it's not like the band don't know how to be concise songwriters.

Maybe it's hypocritical of us to criticize the band for both borrowing against their back catalog and trying new things. But not every new idea is a good one, just as not every nostalgia trip is warranted. Luckily, even if these aren't the best songs Less Than Jake have ever written, none is an outright dud—our only real gripe is the lack of a song with Manganelli on lead vocals (but we can always dig out our Rehasher CDs if we need an immediate fix). At this point in their career, LTJ pretty much appealing exclusively to their sizable core; this release is just as unlikely as the last few to bring in any new fans, but it will more than please those who have stuck by their side.

Sleep It Off http://www.lessthanjake.com

“Goodbye, Mr. Personality”