Pure Noise Records – Release Date: 2/03/17
Making their Pure Noise Records debut, Less Than Jake recently issued a seven-song EP entitled Sound the Alarm. Recorded by singer/bassist Roger Lima at his own studio and mixed by Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room, these songs sound exceptional and allow for the individual instruments to really shine through at the appropriate times. Additionally, this record signifies the most spirited that the band has sounded in over a decade, which is especially impressive considering they’re celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. The EP gets underway with “Call to Arms,” a track that evokes memories of fan-favorite album Borders & Boundaries and employs a bouncy chorus that’s peppered with horns and an array of backing vocals. It’s followed by “Whatever the Weather,” a mid-tempo, ska-leaning number that features prominent horn lines and a resilient message, (“It’s out of my hands, these too heavy times/No matter the weather, I’ll never waiver”). “Welcome to My Life” is a laidback ska tune with introspective lyrics that recalls their 2003 hit “The Science of Selling Yourself Short,” while “Good Sign” is a fast-paced, upbeat punk entry that talks about embracing optimism. The EP fittingly concludes with “Things Change,” a track that highlights some of their top characteristics: high-flying horn parts, the alternating vocal talents of Lima and singer/guitarist Chris DeMakes, and the sturdy rhythms of drummer Vinnie Fiorello. Sound the Alarm is recommended for those in search of a quality ska/punk fix and will likely leave fans anxiously anticipating their next full-length.
For its inaugural year in Douglas Park, Riot Fest continued to grow and expand, while still retaining its formula of legacy acts mixed with eclectic and emerging artists. Despite the change of location, Riot Fest felt right at home in its new digs, taking advantage of an open layout that made for easy navigation from one stage to another. There was a little rain and a fair amount of mud, but those that weren’t deterred by the elements were treated to a surplus of memorable sets from a genuinely diverse collection of bands. We recapped some of our favorite moments and observations from what was an eventful, action-packed weekend. Written by Jamie Ludwig, (JL) and Bill Denker, (BD). Photos by Katie Hovland.
Red Scare – Release Date: 3/31/15
Success is an up-and-coming band from Seattle and Radio Recovery marks their Red Scare debut. The band’s sound could likely be described as a cross between Borders & Boundaries-era Less Thank Jake and early Dillinger Four, with an emphasis on positive lyrics. Oftentimes the term “sing-along anthem” gets thrown around too frequently, but in this case it’s a suitable description for many of their songs. Take for instance the album’s second track, “22nd St.,” which starts off with a galloping bass line that powers its way to a fiery chorus. Singer Aaron Rev delivers a passionate and guttural shout, exclaiming “There’s no light on 22nd St./There’s no more help for us/For every second passing by/There’s another chance to get out and make things right,” and the listener can’t help but want to pump their fist in the air and scream the words right back. “Revolution…” addresses trends in the punk community and takes aim at music that prioritizes fashion over a message. The song’s chorus utilizes powerful gang vocals and asks, “Where, where is the revolution?” It’s sung with such conviction and really seems like the band is urging its audience to take action and stand up for what they believe in. Another bright spot is “Lives That We Deserve,” a track that captures nearly all the best attributes of Success. There are distinctive vocal melodies, notable guitar riffs and lyrics about overcoming daily struggles in hopes of achieving a better life. Perhaps what’s most appealing about this band is their unabashed approach. They’re not attempting to capitalize on the latest fad, they’re simply writing honest songs that try to inspire. Check out “Lives That We Deserve” below for a break from a lot of the contrived and cynical stuff that’s out there today.
Earlier this month, Less Than Jake released their ninth studio album, entitled See the Light. It was recorded by their singer/bassist Roger Lima at his own studio, resulting in a record that retains somewhat of an old school vibe, but also sees the band explore new musical frontiers. To be brief, the album is by no means a rehash, rather it sounds like a reinvigorated version of LTJ’s classic characteristics. We spoke with drummer/lyricist Vinnie Fiorello on the day that See the Light came out. We talked about how the record was written, its lyrics and its style. We also discussed their plans for next year, as well as the long-term future of Less Than Jake. Continue Reading…
Sleep It Off Records – Release Date: 6/20/11
Less Than Jake has returned with Greetings from…, marking their first new material since 2008’s GNV FLA. This EP displays more confidence and focus than the previously mentioned album, and it’s arguably the band’s best effort since their 2003 full-length, Anthem. Recorded by bassist Roger Lima at his own studio, The Moathouse, and mixed and mastered by Descendents/ALL guitarist Stephen Egerton, Greetings from… not only sounds great, it also captures the essence and excitement of Less Than Jake’s celebrated live performances. The first track, “Can’t Yell Any Louder”, is upbeat, hyper-melodic and packed with horns. It’s easily one of the catchiest songs that LTJ has written in recent years, not to mention one of the most ska-influenced. “Goodbye, Mr. Personality” is next and it’s more laidback and mid-tempo, yet retains a strong sense of ska flavor and sounds similar to the band’s Losing Streak album. “Harvey Wallbanger” features plenty of their patented “whoa-oh” vocals and talks of America’s continued economic recession, and it’s followed by an introspective song about wanting to make a difference called “Oldest Trick in the Book”. The final entry, “Life Out Loud”, is fast-paced, straight-ahead punk rock and reminiscent of LTJ favorites like “National Anthem” and “Scott Farcas Takes It on the Chin”. It’s as passionate as it is catchy, and clearly the EP’s standout track. Greetings from… showcases a reenergized Less Than Jake. If this EP serves as a taste of what’s to come, fans should eagerly anticipate the release of their next album.
Through the years, Less Than Jake’s music has continuously matured and evolved. They’ve flirted with mainstream success, but more importantly remained steadfast in both their songwriting and live performances. Their commitment to integrity and an overall fan-friendly approach has made it easy for many listeners to remain loyal to LTJ for the duration of the band’s already lengthy career. On 2008’s GNV FLA, they’ve continued their proud and storied tradition, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This interview was conducted via telephone with drummer/lyricist Vinnie Fiorello. Continue Reading…
Growing up in a musical family from Rockford, Illinois, Matt Allison began his path to becoming a producer while playing guitar and bass in various high school bands. He later moved to Champaign, Illinois to pursue an English degree, yet his passion for music remained. Allison continued playing in bands, but also took interest in recording demo tapes for his and his friends’ bands alike. “I kind of realized you could really exercise a lot of whatever creative urges you had via recording music, while at the same time making a much better living than you possibly would as a musician,” he said. “In some ways it was like hedging a bet, career-wise, but on the other hand I never have been interested in being a touring musician. Working in a studio is something I really enjoy doing.” Allison and a friend eventually constructed a small studio in the attic of the home where they were living, though it soon became apparent that Champaign was simply overcrowded with studios and under-populated by bands. This revelation is what ultimately led Allison to migrate to Chicago. Continue Reading…