In the last ten years, my tastes in music have rapidly changed. I’ve expanded and gone off on weird genre tangents, ranging from Japanese post-rock to the greatest offerings east coast hip-hop had to give me. Every day I’m finding new bands to dig into. I’m always looking for something new to keep me going, and most of all, keep me interested. In high school, this really wasn’t the case.
Around 2000, I finally started developing what I considered a taste in music, or at least something that I could associate myself with. I fell into punk rock, and it really defined a lot of my high school experience. I found myself interested in all of these bands that Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 introduced me to, and as I’ve said before, that game really lit a fire under my ass. Music finally meant something to me. I digested all I could find, and to be honest, I don’t listen to a lot of those bands all that much anymore. Less Than Jake has never been one of those bands. I love them more today than I ever did when I was a teenager. I think this is due to a lot of the songs making a lot more sense to me now than they did back then.
The first time I even heard this band, I didn’t know what to expect. Ska-punk was a new genre to me, something I didn’t yet understand. Their most recent album at the time was 2000’s Borders and Boundaries, an album somewhat removed from the sound they are typically associated with. I was wasting time on the internet, looking up bands, and I knew people on IRC who were into this “ska band,” so I decided to give them a look. The first song I heard was a track from Borders and Boundaries called “Kehoe,” and I think I fell in love in an instant.
I was initially thrown off by the horn section, but I quickly got over it. It was that first verse that said everything I really need to know about life at the time.
Ideals are like opinions, beliefs just like tradition
Sometimes both are not enough.
Faded stickers and crumpled flyers,
They’ve become the reminder that there’s an anthem in us
That fits the flag we’ve flown for years.
Now, over years I’ve learned that Less Than Jake really don’t sing about a lot of different topics. The majority of their songs are about living in a shitty situation and making the claim to better yourself and get out of that terrible hole you’ve sunk into. It never mattered to me. I’m 26 years old, and I still feel this way every day of my life. I don’t really know what I’m doing, and I’m doing all I can to survive from day to day. Their songs still mean the world to me, and instilled the belief within me to just be myself. It’s exactly what I needed to hear.
I can still recall going to the mall one evening and picking up their Losing Streak and Hello Rockview albums. I would pick up Borders and Boundaries a few weeks later, and would eventually pick up the rest of their primary discography. I was hooked, and I needed to hear everything I could. I finally got to see them live in 2003, and since then I’ve seen them about ten times. This is a band that helped me become who I am, and helped give me hope during the worst days of my life. I wrote their lyrics in my school notebooks and quoted them frequently in my old Livejournal.
I found out fairly early on that the lyrics were all written by drummer, Vinnie Fiorello. He never struck me as a very impressive drummer, but I found solace in his words. Even as their songs treaded over similar themes, they always seemed to find a way to keep it sounding fresh. I read interviews with him where he was asked about how he wrote his lyrics, and he mentioned that he would write individual lines on everything from napkins to post-it notes, and he kept them in a shoebox. He would assemble similar lines together into stanzas, and hand them off to guitarist Chris Demakes and bassist Roger Manganelli. This method always seemed to work for them, but as they’ve grown as a band I can see Vinnie’s lyrics take a slightly more straightforward, less fractured structure to them.
They are set to release their next album tomorrow (or January for a physical copy), which is comprised of a pair of EPs released earlier this year and late 2011, along with a pair of unreleased tracks to top it off. The songs have been arranged into an album, and having heard ten of the twelve tracks, I really feel like this is some of the strongest material they’ve released in years. For a band that’s been around for twenty years, they keep on doing what they do, and they are still very good at it. Not only are they releasing this album, but they are also planning on releasing a full length album of new material next year! I’m really excited about this, and despite missing their show nearly a month ago, I’m making it a point not to miss them the next time they come around.
I may have gotten into a lot of odd music over the last few years, dabbling in noise rock and bizarre ambient experiments, but I will always love this band.