After being the kings of ska for 21 years, Less Than Jake have returned bigger and better than ever with their latest full length album, See The Light; a DIY masterpiece that contains elements of their entire discography in every song and keeps you on your toes as you listen. This album certainly follows the modus operandi of Less Than Jake, with somber lyrics and dark subject matter that is masked by fun and jovial sounding songs. However, See The Light takes an extremely unexpected approach with incredible new musical technicalities, an archetype for the album in its entirety, and it has the most heart of any Less Than Jake album I have ever heard.
Hello Rockview was the first ska album I ever owned and remains my favorite to this day. For the record, I was 3-years-old when it was released. That fact is relevant because the opening song on See The Light, “Good Enough,” sounds as though it could have been from that very 1998 release. Such a nostalgic feeling rushed through my body as I heard my favorite ska band doing what they do best and the way they want to do it. It’s like they opened the album saying that this record wasn’t going to be “good enough” for the record labels, but it is going to be the best for themselves. When the second song came on, I was already singing the words because it is the phenomenal single, “My Money Is On The Long Shot.” This song really represents a “new” Less Than Jake while simultaneously sticking to their roots of catchy melodies and horn driven choruses.
As the album progressed, I continued to be amazed by each song that was thrown at me. The song “Do the Math” is a song for skanking and gang vocals and also holds a strong message that life is short and we must embrace what is closest to us. That song really sticks out on the album as one that not only sounds amazing, but one that can also be applied to everyone who hears it.
Seeing the light at the end of a tunnel is an archetype for this album as the songs hold their dark subject matter over the light music. Of course, not all of the songs are dark and sad; the album also holds many positive messages. However, certain tracks symbolize the beginning of the tunnel rather than the end. “The Loudest Songs” delves into a theme of music being a positive resource in dark times. “American Idle” is a melancholy tune that has a theme of not forgetting memories and beginnings, no matter how far away they may seem. The bassist/vocalist of the band, Roger Manganelli, has a track called “Sunstroke” that really goes deep into not having a stable home or comfort zone and how to handle those situations. It’s songs like these on See The Light that are examples of how Less Than Jake has the uncanny ability to create such a juxtaposition in their music with such happy melodies masking such profound lyrics.
Overall, See The Light has been highly anticipated for five years and it does not disappoint. Even though it may not be as raw as Pezcore, it has the edge of Losing Streak and the contrast of In With The Out Crowd and it has the most unexpected spectrum of musicality. Their second single, “Give Me Something To Believe In, Inc.”, has a straight ska and almost 2-tone feel, while, at the other end, “Weekends All Year Long” is a song that I had to listen to five times before I could fully grasp the complexity of the major/minor switches and the form. Less Than Jake strongly continue their legacy as they are at their best on this album.
See the Light releases on Nov. 12 and sees the band returning to Fat Wreck Chords. LTJ is headlining the Fat Tour 2013 along with Anti-Flag, Masked Intruder and Get Dead in support of the album. You can check out those dates here.