Album Review: Less Than Jake “Greetings and Salutations”

Hailing from Gainesville, Fla., Less Than Jake have been at it for two decades, and despite a few minor changes to the horn section, they have always had the same core lineup. The result is that they are clearly very comfortable in their own skin. They know where their strengths lie, and they have never been accused of being over ambitious. Pop punk with brass and ska rhythms aren’t the most complicated of punk rock conventions, so with “Greetings and Salutations,” the band sticks closely to their guns.

The album opens with “The New Auld Lang Syne,” throwing everything fans expect into the mix. It is rounded out by a singalong chorus that declares “do your worst/I’ll survive another year,” acting as a mission statement for the rest of the record. Less Than Jake have always been about anthems of small town life, and escaping to bigger, better things. Their previous album, “GNV FLA,” was seen as a return to form, and this new release uses it as a foundation for a solid progression forward. The songs are catchier, and at times, the brass resembles the more relaxed tones it took on during 2000’s “Borders and Boundaries.” Everyone gets a chance to shine on this album in some way or another.

The biggest problem with the record is that while the tracks are great individually, they don’t work as well in the concept of a full length record. Despite the attempts to assemble it as a single studio LP, the songs still feel like a pair of EPs mixed up and arranged into an album sequence.  Fans of the band will recognize the majority of the tracks from the two EPs released late last year, and earlier this spring, along with a pair of leftover tracks from the recording sessions. That’s not to say this is a bad release, because it isn’t. Both EPs of material are excellent, standing up with some of the best material the band has ever released, though it’s obvious to see why the other two tracks were initially left out. While not immediately up to par to the rest of the release, both “Flag Holders Union” and “View From the Middle” stand as nice, uptempo pop punk numbers that get better from repeated listens.

“Can’t Yell Any Louder,” formerly the opening track from the earlier EP, stands defiantly with it’s chorus of “I tell myself tonight is mine/so I’ll hold my head up high/I’m never moving backwards/I don’t think I can yell any louder,” and Less Than Jake forges onward, hopefully for another twenty years. It’s been a busy anniversary for the band so far, and they seem determined to do it all again.

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