Less Than Jake are one of the few survivors of the late 90s wave of ska-punk and their longevity is thanks in large part to the punchy numbers on these two classic albums, from 1996 and 1998 respectively. Repackaged this year with touched-up artwork and a bonus live DVD with each album, it’s time to take a look back to the past and start skanking around your bedroom once again.
First off, Losing Streak starts things off with ‘the Old Dude, Harry J Reynolds’ welcoming you the album before it smacks you in the face with the crunchy guitars and brassy brass of “Automatic”. Other classic Less Than Jake tracks appearing on this album include the second, and more relentless, version of “Johnny Quest (Thinks We’re Sellouts)” in the band’s catalogue (the first appearing on their debut LP, Pezcore), “Dopeman”, and “Jen Doesn’t Like Me Anymore”.
Hello Rockview, which is on balance the stronger of the two albums, is jammed packed full of live classics such as “Last One Out Of Liberty City”, “All My Best Friends Are Metalheads” and “Scott Farcus Takes It On the Chin”; as well as the unstoppable “Help Save The youth of America From Exploding” with it’s low-fi acoustic introduction followed by singer/guitarist Chris Demakes’ relentless guitar tapping solo. This song, too, has made its way back into the band’s live repertoire following the reissue.
Speaking of live favourites, the real value of these reissues lies in the bonus live content contained therein. Whilst the video footage of each album-long performance was not available for review, the audio quality of the recordings is flawless, and having the songs interspersed with the band’s banter and sampled introductions does add a lot to the listen. Superbly performed before packed audiences in their native Florida, the vocal back-and-forth between Demakes and bassist Roger Manganelli is even more evident than on the studio versions.
Less Than Jake’s strength has always been in their unreserved use of their horn section, which so many ska bands attempted to tone down once the genre began to fall out of the limelight, coupled with their party atmosphere and light-hearted lyrical content; all of which are present in spades in these two albums.
Either of these releases would be the perfect starting place for those not familiar with Less Than Jake’s back catalogue, or the appeal that lies within. For old fans who bought these albums the first time around, the live content alone makes these a worthwhile purchase.
© Steve Pass, Music Vice