By Slick Nick
I’ve been listening to punk bands since 1999, and it’s hard to think of a more worthless sub genre of music than ska punk. Replace any semblance of creativity in a pop punk band with trumpets and colourful shirts, and what presents itself is an irritating and generally unpopular style of music. A record label’s ska punk band/s will almost always be their lowest sellers, regardless of whether the label is an independent or a major.
Being a ska punk album released in the worst ever decade for rock music, I was expecting ‘Anthem’ to be a shitter. The fifth studio album by Less Than Jake (LTJ) doesn’t disappoint in that respect, being one of the worst albums ever made. Appropriately, this was also the Florida band’s return to a major label.
Given their kerazy live show reputation and cartoony album artwork, on record LTJ are actually surprisingly dull. Listen to any Greenday or Blink182 album, and music-wise the entire span of the band’s creativity will be more than covered. Listening to ‘Anthem’ in 2011 as I have done for this post is quite a mind-numbing experience.
A band doesn’t need to be as skilled as Rush in terms of music to keep me entertained, but they damn well better have some killer hooks to lead their songs if they claim to be a pop punk group. ‘Anthem’ not only lacks tunes, but the one or two it does have sound very familiar. A well-trained ear isn’t really required to discover that the melody lines tend to follow the same path from song to song. I am sure reading the sheet music to this record would evoke multiple feelings of de ja vu.
LTJ have two vocalists who tend to share singing duties from song to song – a rarity in rock music. Guitarist Chris Demakes isn’t too bad, in a generic sort of way, but bassist Roger Manganelli really flops on this album. His lead vocal on second single ‘The Science of Selling Yourself Short’ is poor; whiny and irritating, it barely holds the tune together. Incidentally, this song features some of the very sparse proper ska/raggae moments on the album.
Speaking of singles, ‘She’s Gonna Break Soon’ really is the pits. I remember when it first came out and was never off the music channels, much to the annoyance of my younger self. I could easily ignore the band’s music but not when this shitter came out. The song really is the crappest, barrel-scraping generic, throw away pop-punk garbage imaginable. It’s also quite a cynical stab at marketing, highlighting their target demographic (tedious angsty teens) lyrically and visually in the song. It makes Papa Roach’s ‘Last Resort’ video look subtle and profound.
Finally, as a ‘bonus’, and I use that word very loosely, LTJ offer a breakneck, inferior cover version of Cheap Trick’s majestic ‘Surrender’. The charm in the original was the melody and the fucking immense, crunchy old guitar sound. It doesn’t work as a 2-minute pop punk song. It just rubs salt into the wounds of the listener; the band have to spoil a good song as well as delivering a miserable album of their own terrible compositions.
I find LTJ’s releases in the wake of ‘Anthem’ quite amusing. Obviously they had blown their creative load on these crap songs, so the next release labelled ‘B Is For B-Sides’ was an album of outtakes from the ‘Anthem’ sessions. Songs too crap for even that album must be beyond worthless. Next came a live album, before they remixed the B-sides album for ANOTHER release. It beggars belief that these fellas grew up in the punk rock scene.