Gainesville Rockers Still Consistent
It is hard to discuss the third wave the ska genre without mentioning the “Gainesville Rock City” rockers of Less Than Jake. Led by the charismatic personalities of vocalists Chris DeMakes and Roger Lima, Less Than Jake have been the convivial ska crew of the last 25 years. For their most recent release, Sound the Alarm, Less Than Jake have gone with the shorter EP format, yielding seven songs that combine for twenty minutes of textbook ska.
The album starts with “Call To Arms.” This track rips the record off to a fast start with high energy bass and drums. This fast-paced liveliness is reminiscent of classic Less Than Jake songs like “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts.”
The second track, “Whatever the Weather,” slows it down but is successful in showing how proficient the Less Than Jake horn section is. Fan favorite Buddy Schaub on trombone and JR Wasilewski on saxophone have great chemistry in this song, especially during the opening and the solo horn part during the bridge. “Whatever the Weather” takes the themes and lyrics of “Call to Arms” and flips them into a positive idea. While “Call to Arms” focuses on recognizing failure in yourself, “Whatever the Weather” teaches to accept whatever happens with lyrics like, “it’s out of my hands, these too heavy times / no matter the weather, I’ll never waiver.”
“Bomb Drop” continues this streak of really impressive horns. Lima’s vocals during the chorus offer a very catchy jingle and the passage after the solo horn section features a very intriguing distortion of the vocals that is rare for a ska punk band like Less Than Jake.
“Welcome to My Life” is the weakest song on the short EP, with a very repetitive string of lyrics that echo the same overall phrase over the reggae style up-strummed chords. There are still highlights in the harmony vocals right before the bridge; and then the bridge itself is very enjoyable.
While some of these songs falter with repetition and lyricism, this is overshadowed by the strong horn sections and instrumentals. Schaub and Wasilewski are consistently catchy and brilliant on every song where they are included. “Good Sign” and “Years of Living Dangerously” highlight this fact.
“Things Change” is a fun way to close out the EP. The fast-paced horns kick the song off, but it transitions into tight bass lines with hard-hitting drums. It also features very emotional lyrics about growing up like, “how does it feel / now that the party’s over / is it too late for us to want something more?” Less Than Jake show their fans something more with this album, as it might be their most impressive release instrumentally.
While Less Than Jake have been members of the scene for 25 years now, they have aged well in their sound, never stretching too far away from their roots, but maturing in their lyrics and their overall sound in order to remain lovable to punk fans. Although the successes of the album are most distinguished in the first half, the second half is not of poor quality. Among the punk releases of 2017, Sound the Alarm is a pleasant surprise that, if given the proper chance, can be a very enjoyable EP for fans of the Gainesville rockers.