”Less Than Jake have lost their touch. They’ll never top Hello Rockview. Being on a major label changed them as a band.”
We’ve all heard the constant stream of allegations, accusations, and diatribes against the Gainesville, Florida-based band now in its sixteenth year. Finished with their stint on Sire/Warner Bros. Records, they started their own label (Sleep It Off Records) to release their seventh studio album, GNV FLA, the title an ode to their hometown.
Titillating trombone slides, warbling guitar riffs, and even the addition of a trumpet (Scott Klopfenstein from Reel Big Fish) allow GNV FLA to explode into the top half of Less Than Jake’s discography with little effort. The songs are in your face, catchy, and full of skankable goodness. Some may say the band has “returned” to an earlier sound, but it’s just the product of ditching glossy overproduction and continuing to write a mix of social commentary, nostalgic witticisms, and horn-happy sing-alongs.
While the first half of GNV FLA will probably find more replayability as the horns are laid on as thick as the choruses on songs such as “City of Gainesville” and “Does the Lion City Still Roar?”, the second half is home to some gems. The rocker “Malachi Richter’s Liquor’s Quicker,” a nod to Malachi Ritscher, who lit himself on fire in Chicago in 2006 to protest the Iraq War, is one of those LTJ songs that is poppy and memorable on the surface, but upon further listens really gets a message out there for the listener to think about their own convictions. “The Space They Can’t Touch” figures to be a crowd-pleaser once it gets into rotation on the band’s setlists with a sing-along chorus with bounceable horn accents, recalling 2003’s Anthem.
Those who felt In With the Out Crowd was mediocre will probably consider this a de facto return to form. The new record is raw, a bit underproduced, yet everything one could expect from a Less Than Jake record. GNV FLA offers a steady mix of rockers and skankers, and as the album draws to a close, you’ll be wondering where all the time went; only three out of fourteen tracks clock in over three minutes.
GNV FLA is simply Less Than Jake being Less Than Jake. The band has reached a point in their career that they can do anything they want without the pressure of being asked to write a radio hit. They’re dedicated to putting out the best record possible, and this new collection of songs is going to rank right up there among their best work. As the band declares in the album opener, “I may be going broke, but I’m never broken down.” Less Than Jake isn’t going anywhere except back into steady rotation on your iPod, and GNV FLA proves that unequivocally.