Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Album Review: Sound The Alarm by Less Than Jake

I don't think I get more excited by a band releasing new material than I do with Less Than Jake (maybe the Descendents, but it's the Descendents). So I was incredibly excited when the Gainesville ska punk legends announced that they would be releasing a new EP named Sound The Alarm. Their first new material since 2013! That's the longest time! Released on Pure Noise Records, of course I was very much looking forward to hearing it.

Sound The Alarm gets going with the song Call To Arms. Beginning with some thick Roger Lima basslines before guitarist Chris DeMakes comes in with some of his instantly recognisable vocals. Call To Arms is about realising that you have messed up a lot and you're getting close to your limit but having the faith that you can "turn it all around." As Less Than Jake have aged they have developed a more mature sounding ska punk style and after one track on this release I already think it's sounding fantastic. The second track continues this more mature sound as Roger takes lead vocal duties. Whatever The Weather takes a look at the deep, dark places that depression can take you and realising that if you stay strong and stick to your own path you can come through it. After an extended horn section things get a little quiet before a Roger sings "It's Out Of My Hands, These Too Heavy Times, No Matter The Weather, I'll Never Waver." I can just imagine a massive Less Than Jake crowd singing this back at the band and it being an amazing uplifting moment. Bomb Drop is classic Less Than Jake. It's fast paced, has plenty of horns and Chris and Roger share vocal duties. This, for me, is when Less Than Jake are at their very best. Bomb Drop is another track that looks at mental health and the ways that people deal with it. On this occasion the message is about not waiting around for things to get better and taking the initiative to try and make things right for yourself. In proper Less Than Jake style, Bomb Drop is full of great hooks and catchy lyrics - you'll be humming for days after you first hear it.

The fourth song on Sound The Alarm is named Welcome To My Life. Welcome To My Life is a slower, more reggae and ska based tune similar to the classic Science Of Selling Yourself Short. Roger's voice is on top form as he sings a song about having the best intentions but things always going wrong. As much as I love fast Less Than Jake, when the band do decide to slow things down for a song it's always very special. Good Sign brings the pace back up with a bouncy ska punk sound. Chris's vocals throughout the verses are fast and the whole sound will get a pit skanking away with smiles on their faces. Good Sign is about discovering the light at the end of the tunnel. Coming through all of the horrible, bad times and now beginning to "fight through the doom and gloom." The penultimate track on Sound The Alarm is named Years Of Living Dangerously. This is another slower Less Than Jake track. The guitars really stood out to me on my first listen of the song. They have been recording in a way that gives them a slight echo that makes them sound fantastic. The track itself is about all those times you've tried to talk your problems through but not being able to work out what is wrong with you. Last, but my no means least, is Things Change. Returning to the classic Less Than Jake sound, Buddy and JR start the track off with some of their trademark horns. Less Than Jake have one of the best and most unique horn sections in the genre today. The horns build the start of the song up brilliantly, letting you know that something big and exciting is about to happen. Something big and exciting does happen as Chris and Roger again share vocal duties on this high octane ska punk banger about realising no matter how bad things get that things can change for the better. This is a great, uplifting way to finish an EP that is mostly about the different stages and aspects of mental health.

It's been four long years since Less Than Jake released a new record and it's well worth the wait. Musically it's as good as ever. Less Than Jake will never reinvent the wheel musically but as they've gotten older they've found a sound that is more mature but it's still the same Less Than Jake that have been loved the world over for more than twenty years. Sound The Alarm is another classic to add to Less Than Jake's impressive discography.

Stream and download Sound The Alarm here: https://purenoise.bandcamp.com/album/sound-the-alarm-ep-2

Like Less Than Jake here: https://www.facebook.com/lessthanjake/

This review was written by Colin Clark.