Sound — 8
With their seventh studio album, Less Than Jake boldly take the leap into musical independence by releasing GNV FLA on their own Sleep It Off Records. Ditching a major label is a big move for most bands, and is normally seen as a statement that the band has decided to reach back to their roots to prove to fans that they are still the same band they were all those years ago. It is safe to say that most 'Pez-heads' were disappointed with 2006's In With The Out Crowd. It looked to many as if Less Than Jake were 'selling out', trying their hands at the poppy, over produced sound attained by the majority of mainstream bands. The real question now is did the band create GNV FLA in the same vein as In With The Out Crowd to please their new followers, or did they record an album in the style of Hello Rockview for their old school fans? The answer is both. GNV FLA is laden with punkier guitars (as demonstrated on 'Settling Son'), high spirited horns ('Golden Age of My Negative Ways'), powerful drumming ('This One's Gonna Leave a Bruise'), and quick flowing bass lines ('Abandon Ship'). In that respect, instrumentally Less Than Jake have delivered for their older fans. However, lyrically and vocally, Chris Demakes and Roger Manganelli continue on from where they left off with In With The Out Crowd. This way they can please the newer fans as well as those from the Hello Rockview era. The album kicks off to the pleasantly bouncy tune of 'City of Gainesville', a re-assuring track based around a light spring-loaded ska riff. The track ends and immediately launches into one of the most energetic and promising songs on the album, 'The State of Florida'. So smooth is the changeover between the two songs, you'd be forgiven to think that they were one. Other standout tracks include 'Abandon Ship' and 'The Space They Can't Touch', the latter of which is sure to become a fan favorite due to it's strong punchy opening, vibrant horns, and upbeat ska guitars, not to mention the sing-along chorus. 'Conviction Notice' is another one to watch as it's a strong, upbeat ska song from start to finish.
Lyrics — 8
The singing on GNV FLA is comparably more energetic and heartfelt than the bands previous offering. When I say 'heartfelt' I don't mean the kind of whiny singing complemented with black tears most pop-punk or emo bands tend to exhibit, I mean the raw, powerful singing filled with strength and power. Each song on GNV FLA is sung with conviction; so much so that you wouldn't be surprised if Chris and Roger lost their vocals after the recordings (hear 'The State of Florida' and 'Golden Age of My Negative Ways'). Lyrically the album is a joy to listen to. It is not often that a drummer takes majority control over the lyric writing, but as GNV FLA and previous LTJ records show, Vinnie Fiorello is a master at it. As the album is a tribute to the bands hometown of Gainesville, Florida (hence the naming of GNV FLA), a large portion of the lyrics is about past memories and experiences of growing up there. This is best shown on opening track 'City of Gainesville': We have our master plan bottled and canned living in the 352; steps 1 and 2 walk home drunk wake up confused with a stranger next to you; the copied costumes and conversation seem to be totally making this into a strip mall kind of town; I use my credit card to buy alcohol student loan spent at the mall and I; I may be going broke but I'm never broken down.
Overall Impression — 9
There is hardly a bad song on GNV FLA. The whole album flows well from start to finish with a quick, determined, yet party-fueled pace. Very much a live album, GNV FLA sees Less Than Jake return to form with an exuberant and colorful album that proves they are still a band with energy, still a band who can write great songs, and still a band worth caring about. Best of all, you can tell that they are having fun.