Less Than Jake
Sound The Alarm
(Pure Noise Records)
Enjoying a fireside chat with friends a few weeks back, we dug up the bones of music that meant something to us in different stages of life—the good, the bad, and the painfully regrettable. We all agreed that bands like Nirvana and the Beatles served as entry-level passions, and progressed into wistfully sharing the bands that stoked our flames. Less Than Jake was a relic in my roundup, with their 1996 major label debut Losing Streak absolutely owning my early teens. The speed and humor were unstoppable. As my tastes changed, they continued to pinch-hit with reliable releases. Jumping from label to label over two decades, their sound veered to the mellow end with lyrics that offer their listeners support and introspection. Thoughtful mentors, those Jakes.
And so now Sound The Alarm is their newest release, and a first with Pure Noise Records. Their lead single “Whatever the Weather” boasts horns and harmonies where you might anticipate them with bass player/co-vocalist Roger Lima hitting the chorus, “It’s out of my hands, these too heavy times. No matter the weather, I’ll never waver.” His voice soars on the final words with a flood of “whoa” vocals to back him up. It’s an optimistic, determined tone that the band have made their creed over time. It will definitely fit well into a live set and serve as a “catch your breath” track.
Much of the album follows this model of catching a breather. The rhythms are not paced at the energizing cadence of their earlier catalog for sure. They needn’t all be at blazing speed, but something is missing. They’ve had great success with tracks in this realm, 2003’s “The Science of Selling Yourself Short” on Anthem held a dynamic range of vocals and instrumentation that proved to be a fan favorite and continues to endure the test of time. The notes and mixing have a way of uplifting the sourest of souls.
Sound The Alarm, however, feels like a rushed release to appease the new label and keep the band on the road with new material. No strangers to the touring circuit (they even have a rarities album dedicated to their first band-bus!), and having just celebrated a series of anniversary shows last year, maybe they just wanted some new material to play. The rhythms are excessively relaxed and sound more like a Less Than Jake cover band than themselves here – nothing stands out. Unfortunately this EP comes off as quickly made, and under-developed in comparison to many of their previous releases.