Sunday, 8 March 2015

Classic Album: Borders and Boundaries by Less Than Jake

When you speak about the genre of ska punk one of the first bands thought of is legendary Gainesville heroes Less Than Jake. Since forming all the way back in 1992 they have put out eight fantastic studio albums and have entertained fans all over the world by being the very best live band in the world. This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the album Borders and Boundaries, an album many believe to be one of their best. I went back and gave it a listen.

Borders and Boundaries was scheduled to be released on Capitol Records, the same label that put out previous albums Losing Streak and Hello Rockview but after a new president came into the label it was decided that Less Than Jake would put out the record on another label. Fat Wreck Chords was the obvious choice for the band and as they say, the rest is history.

The song Magnetic North kicks off the album with bassist Roger putting down some great rumbling lines before Chris adds with some nice guitar riffs and Vinnie adds some great drum blasts. Then the horns join in and the song really jumps into life. Like every Less Than Jake song it’s a sing along, with the chorus especially being huge. Up next is the song Kehoe. Kehoe is all about flying the flag for ska punk, something that the band has continued to do to this day. Musically this song feels slightly more aggressive than previous Less Than Jake songs but the horns are still there to keep the mood upbeat and the track danceable. Suburban Myth is the first track on the album where both Chris and Roger share vocal duties and it really adds to the sound. Chris and Roger could both easily sing lead in their own bands and together they are just awesome. This is one of the more ska punk songs on the album rather than punk with horns and is about going back to the town you grew up in and reminiscing about old times. The fourth song Look What Happened is one of the most popular Less Than Jake songs ever. Starting out with Chris singing the intro over the top of Rogers bass this draws a massive reaction from a live crowd. When the full band kicks in the song really stirs into life with Chris and Roger sharing verse and chorus duties respectively and it works perfectly. Dual vocals add so much life to a song. The song itself is about wanting to get away from home when everything goes wrong. This song also appears on Less Than Jakes next album, Anthem. Hell Looks A Lot Like L.A. is a faster tempo song about the frustrations of moving to the big city as a youngster and it not being what you wanted it to be. The horns provided by Buddy, Darren and Pete really come to the fore on this song and will keep a crowd skanking.

The sixth song Mr Chevy Celebrity is all about the friend you have as a child who is bad influence. It’s one of the most interesting and fun songs on Borders and Boundaries. Up next is the song that really made me fall in love with Less Than Jake – Gainesville Rock City. To this day I still get excited when I hear that key turning, the engine starting and that classic horn riff. The song builds for a good minute before the lyrics kick in. Chris and Roger’s tag team vocal delivery is again perfect and Roger’s intensity on the last chorus really keeps the excitement of the song going strong. Malt Liquor Tastes Better When You’ve Got Problems is a song quite clearly about drinking when life isn’t going your way. Lyrically this is one of the bands best; the lines “I’ve Been So Busy Denying, That I’ve Always Wound Up Living, Pay Check to Pay Check, Scraping By But Hardly Trying” really hit home. Track number nine is called Bad Scene And A Basement Show. This is a break up song, in particular about a break up that happens at a gig. Musically the guitar and bass are heavier here and the horn blasts are short and stabby giving a sense of urgency. I really enjoyed the bridge towards the end of the song where the only Chris’s guitar and vocal can be heard and the song takes a bit of a musical shift to finish off. This songs blends effortlessly into the track number ten, Is Thing On? This song starts out feeling out quite sombre and thoughtful before kicking up some gears for the chorus. I really like the changes in directions throughout the song, taking you from restrained and thoughtful to a big chorus to a finished that will have a whole crowd jumping up and down in unison.

Pete Jackson Is Getting Married is one of the most underrated Less Than Jake songs. It’s a whole lot of fun from start to finish and never fails to put a smile on my face. The song is about the typical “white trash” wedding and tells the story of all the things that might happen on the might. It’s not a serious song that will give you some deeply profound thoughts. It’s a song for having fun with, for laughing with, for singing along to and to dancing to. No band makes music more fun than Less Than Jake. 1989 is a song about growing up and not really feeling like you’ve made any progress. Chris’s voice is perfect here and really carries the melody of the song well and the horns really keep the energy of the song high. The introduction to Last Hour Of The Last Day At Work is fantastic. A pounding drum beat from drummer and lyricist Vinnie and some of Chris’s guitars riffs slowly fade in; doing this really grabs your attention straight away. The song is about making sure you pick the path you want in life and not getting stuck in a dead end job you don’t really want, life is really short, make sure you make the most of it. This is some advice I wish I had had in my younger years from my parent. The penultimate song on Border and Boundaries is Bigger Picture and its starts of like a whirlwind. The song goes along at this pace nicely throughout the track before getting to a musical interlude when a tambourine and even a woodblock of some description is used before one last big finale of the chorus. The final song on Borders is Faction. This is a fast paced ska song is about resisting the urge to give in to peer pressure to fit in and being strong enough to be your own person no matter the cost.

Borders and Boundaries is the album that began to change Less Than Jake from a ska punk band to a punk band with good horns, not all fans are big on this musical direction but nobody can deny just how many great songs have stood the test of time from the Borders and Boundaries era of Less Than Jake and still get some of the biggest reaction and their live shows. 

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Now listening to Nervous In The Alley by Less Than Jake

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