There’s not a lot to be said about the punk/ska genre – especially from someone who isn’t as widely familiar with Warped Tour as most. However, I have come to a conclusion…
You only need three essential ingredients for a proper punk/ska band: fun, good orchestration, and an energetic front man.
Less Than Jake has made it their business to not be taken seriously. When these Florida party boys from Gainesville stopped doing the Jefferson’s Theme Song and started releasing full LPs, they still had fun doing it. I admire that about any band in the genre, or any band period for that matter.
That being said over the years, punk has been brutally hammered by nonsense joke acts or emo kid karate kicks, but ska always seemed to stay close to it’s roots of having fun and looking good doing it. This release hearkens back to their debut, Pezcore, with a modern take and a more polished sound.
The down side? Their nostalgic memorabilia cannot suppress what looks to be another shotty pop punk album of the ’00s, with a few minor gems. Ska only shines through a fraction, and it seems another decent band of it’s heyday will fall.
As GNV FLA (abbreviation for Gainesville, Florida) begins, there’s this short intro called “City of Gainesville” (appropriately named) that reminds a lot of Sublime with its reggae-heavy slow vibe and lyrical scarcity. An excellent introduction that segues into (what a shock) “The State of Florida”. I admit the titling is clever on some frat boy scale, with their state pride definitely showing through. It’s your standard fast-paced ska track – and alongside it’s counterpart – a great opener.
Rumor has it that track three, “Does the Lion City Still Roar?” is the first official single. Sadly, it sounds to me almost EXACTLY like “The State of…”, and therefore makes me wonder if originality was nixed completely?
Enter “Summon Monsters”, which appears to be socially satirical with lines like “…money to monsters, exchanging hands.” The riffs ravage it beautifully with the punk roots showing. I make this my favorite song on here thus far. The next song, “Abandon Ship”, I’m sorry to say is a throwaway for my taste. Reminiscent of your stereotypical emo kid, crybaby track meshed with a finely-tuned brass section, it’s too easy to see this is filler at first play.
When the next title came up as “Handshake Meets Pokerface”, I was curious about how well their wordplay would pan out. With it’s funky ska rhythm, I found it catchy as can be and it included my aforementioned formula (minus my expected wordplay), so it’s a great track all-around. “Settling Son” seems to come off as a clone of Avenged Sevenfold, except in place of some prime lyrical prowess is a pathetic excuse for what sounds like Good Charlotte’s reboot (and Good Charlotte is bad enough).
“Malachi Richter’s Liquor’s Quicker” has only one proper comment to be made – great title, high expectations, low quality output. “Golden Age of my Negative Ways” and “The Space They Can’t Touch” hold strong as another pair of funky ska tracks to come standard from Less Than Jake – with a hint of Panic! At The Disco on the chorus of the latter, unfortunately.
“Conviction Notice” is a fair forgery if ska, but GNV FLA’s second honorable mention for wicked tunes (first still being “Summon Monsters”) goes to “This One Is Going To Leave A Bruise” for the brutal combo of ska and punk evident in it’s powerful chorus. “The Life of the Party Has Left the Building” is a short introduction track which has remnants of the very first track on the album, and so we’re left with the all-important closer.
Lucky for them, they nailed that down to a science in their 16-year career. “Devil in my DNA” is a priceless artifact if only on THIS album.
Overall I’ve made one thing becomes quite clear by the end of this song-by-song analysis – their luck has run out.
I’ve noticed this seems to be a running trend in pop punk. I was crossing my fingers for LTJ, but all’s well that ends well. While always a pleasure to see live, they didn’t live up to expectations. The emo vein runs them into the ground, and subtle rip-offs from other mainstream bands of the past 5 years obviously influenced them (in a bad way).
The formula is here – but the life of the party has, indeed, left the building.
“Does the Lion City Still Roar?”