Some bands just seem to last, unknowing of the internal troubles that plague most groups and unwary of the current state of the music industry. Ska-punk rockers Less Than Jake (Chris Demakes – vocals/guitar, Roger Manganelli – bass/guitar, Peter “JR” Wasilewski – sax, Buddy Schaub – trombone, Vinnie Fiorello – drums) might be one of the few bands that appears unfazed by the turmoil plaguing music, while coincidently adding its own independent label Sleep It Off Records.
For some, having your own label would be the image of vanity run amok, but for the 16-year veteran band having their own label means being debt-free of any musical obligations except for whatever they feel they owe to themselves. GNV FLA is Less Than Jake‘s seventh full-length album and also their first for Sleep It Off Records.
The album title refers to the old airport code for their hometown of Gainesville, Florida. Likewise, the album itself follows in trying to reconnect with the band’s past, and more importantly the band’s old sound.
The opening “City Of Gainesville” tries to set the album’s tone with the band doing their best Guster impression, but confuses otherwise by proceeding on the next thirteen tracks, most noticeably “The State Of Florida,” with its simple and old school 90s alt-punk stylings. It takes the third song to finally realize that traditional LTJ sound of blaring horns and carefree bellows in “Does The Lion City Still Roar” (download mp3 here).
While I’ve always found it hard to relate to the dark messages of songs that aren’t moody or dark, it still is refreshing to pick up those lines of absolute truth underneath seemingly ambivalent or even fantastical melodies. Less Than Jake doesn’t slow down a bit when dealing with suicide (“Abandon Ship”), a father’s struggle to reach his son (“Settling Son”), or the uncertain emotions caused by such a polarizing war (“Malachi Richter’s Liquor’s Quicker”).
The biggest lingering question on GNV FLA is not whether it’s a Less Than Jake album (it is), but whether it holds up after years of changing and evolving tastes. At best, the latest LTJ effort is a reintroduction into the catchier and enjoyably lighter side of music. At worst, it’s a dated re-examination of the band’s original self.