Though the band Less Than Jake has been around since 1992, I have honestly never listened to them. I think I wrote them off years ago, grouping them with emo-punk wannabe bands of the early 2000s, like Fall Out Boy, who were more interested in perfecting their eyeliner than making good punk music.
The band’s new album, “See The Light,” allowed me to do just that, and I realized the error of my judgment all those moons ago. I was entirely wrong about their origins and style and have now found that they are punky and jammy in the best ways.
It is obvious Less Than Jake took their time and put a lot of effort into the production. The opening songs “Good Enough” and “My Money Is On the Long Shot” nicely display their sound. The chunky guitar riffs are embellished with horn ensemble and groovy percussion. The sound is reminiscent of Sublime in the ‘90s, mashing together reggae and rock in a way that’s difficult to pull off.
Less Than Jake’s genre would most likely be categorized as ska, a combination of punk and rock that’s jammy and fun, yet deep and profound. The horns on the record really make the music. They set the entire mood in the song “Give Me Something To Believe In,” a song whose lyrics shout for help while the music puts a hopeful feel into the message. I love the combination of their dark lyrics, a classic feature of punk, combined with the upbeat bass and drums that bring the reggae feel. This approach is a great characteristic of ska that the band really brings home on this album.
The tunes on “See The Light” bring nostalgia for the early ‘90s when punk was expanding and organizing itself into a wide variety of genres, theirs being California-sounding jam punk. “Do the Math” is a slower tune with a nice melody that showcases the lead singer’s vocals. “American Idle” has a great grungy guitar part, making it one of the heaviest songs on the album, enhanced by the screaming lyrics and continuing the dark themes of complaining about society. “Weekends All Year Long” switches around in a complex form, dropping a new beat multiple times throughout the track. “Sunstroke” again brings the angst-filled lyrics and the happy music, and the percussion really brings it all together.
The album could use a little more variety, as each song sounds a little too similar to the last. Not to say that it’s a terrible thing, because they pull off the sound so well. Why bother trying to do something different? If they weren’t so good at pumping out their ska songs, the album could get a little redundant. But after a decades-long career, they have obviously found their style and decided to stick with it, and we can’t really blame them for that.
Listening to this album was a big wake up call for me, and I realized that I should research my perceptions before ignorantly assigning poor judgment for some bands. As a big fan of ‘90s punk ska music, this album was really enjoyable for me. Perhaps I was too elitist due to my love of Sublime to recognize that other bands can and have done what they did. “See The Light” is a really good album and a pleasant reminder that ska is still alive and well in an age of electronic dance music.