Sound — 7
It's hard not to look back fondly to the good old days, when the sound of vibrant horn section of a ska band penetrated through your radio speakers and it was impossible not to bob with every emphasis of the guitar's up-beat. So when the news arrived that Less Than Jake was releasing a new album, rediscovering the in music seemed a possibility. But unfortunately, Less Than Jake's latest release In With the Out Crowd strays too far from its ska roots, while not adding much of a fresh take on any music genre. The band, consisting of Chris Demakes on vocals/guitars, bassist Roger Manganelli, Buddy Schaub on trombone, Vinnie Fiorello on drums, and sax man Peter Wasilewski, feels too much like your run-of-the-mill pop-punk band this time around. Only a few of the songs take advantage of the powerhouse horn section, while the ones that stand without a sax or trumpet lack much distinction. The second track Still Life Franchise first feels like old-school ska, but this feeling is short-lived. Most of the songs after Still Life Franchise only use the horns here and there, which would not be a bad thing if the song had a unique chorus, verse, or well, maybe even an infectious bridge. The first single off the CD, Overrated, has the band's trademark harmonies and Demakes' energetic delivery, which are always a nice touch that defines Less Than Jakes' music. But the song relies on a few chords and a repetitive chorus as its main musical attributes. The kids of today will likely enjoy the cynical attitude projected in the tune, but for the listeners who seek a little bit more, the song probably won't satisfy. For most of the album, songs seemed disjointed, with half of the song appearing as ska and the other half as your usual pop-punk song. But the band arranges a nice meeting of straightforward rock and horn grooves in Fall Asleep On The Subway, probably the best song on the CD. There are so many unique elements to the song that after only one listen, you are ready to start humming along. It's not your traditional ska, but the band successfully found a way to accentuate the song with the horn section.
Lyrics — 8
An essential part of the Less Than Jake's allure is the ability the band has to relate to young audiences. While the lyrics may not click with everyone, the band definitely deserves credit for maintaining the ability to convey words that will likely appeal to Warped Tour audiences. The band's first single is chock-full of lyrics of specific ideas that will likely hit a chord with more than a few people. In Overrated Demakes sings, I think sex is overrated; So is always getting wasted; Designer drugs and dead-end jobs; And classic rock is so outdated. While plenty of teenagers might find the lyrics appealing, the cynicism might just have the 30-somethings nodding their heads as well. The band shows its more sensitive side in a song like Mostly Memories. I tried to memorize dates and times of old accidents and the failed attempts now; still afraid of those mistakes I've made. Some may say that this is a stab at emo, but it is a nice contrast to a song like Overrated.
Overall Impression — 7
Less Than Jake do offer a couple of memorable tunes on Out With the In Crowd, but the majority of the bunch does not really inspire a second listening. If the band packed the record with inspired, melodic, and horn-laced songs like Fall Asleep On The Subway and Let Her Go, it would be a winner through and through. But the pluses don't come often enough this time around. The ska element of the band is indeed slowly disappearing, and Less Than Jake seems to not know if they want to leave that title behind or not. The horns still add such an impressive element to the songs that they should be used more not less. The band proves on a few tracks they can create a rocking horn section without the ska, so let's hope the next CD shows off that perfect hybrid on every track.