Photo Credit: Paris Visone
Gainesville, Florida ska punk outfit Less Than Jake’s first new album in seven years Silver Linings starts right off with the type of attention-grabbing riff that defines a great album opening. Beyond the painfully clever title, “The High Cost of Low Living”, utilizes some of the very themes which rock ‘n’ roll was founded on, right through its roots in the blues: “I’m takin’ what I’m makin’, spend it on a Saturday night // Tryin’ to make a livin’, maybe I just ain’t livin’ right // But I found my paradise.”
With the world now close to a year into a deadly, unprecedented health crisis which has effected everyone’s life in one way or another, most people no doubt long for such days, when our biggest concern was getting through our work week and then blowing off the appropriate (or perhaps inappropriate) amount of steam on Friday night. On most of Silver Linings, Less Than Jake musically adhere to the same ethos of working hard and playing harder, offering up their appealing brand of kinetic, jumpy and edgy tunes backboned by a classic brass instruments section.
Still, the album doesn’t necessarily stay in just one lane: while “Keep on Chasing” continues the same musically trajectory introduced at the beginning of the record, “Lie to Me”, for example, is a bit less ska than emo. Some listeners have no doubt always found ska punk to be a bit repetitious, and Silver Linings doesn’t really alter its tone much until five tracks in with “The Test”, in which its minor notes give us the album’s first (comparatively) “darker” track. Yet the song’s message is intentionally ambiguous, combining lyrics like “Day in, day out // I know we get stronger in the end” with “Tell me when you see a version of me // You want me to be.”
That type of introspection continues on “Monkey Wrench Myself”, although the uptempo track ultimately becomes more of an I-can-do-it anthem (“This is the only way I’ll make it // Gonna hold my breath and face it… // Gonna get myself through”). Riff-centric “Dear Me” is also closer to the pop punk style of bands like Blink-182 and Green Day, but lyrically is a bit less upbeat, as the song’s narrator seems more focused on the negative. Titles like “King of the Downside” and “Lost at Home” probably also suggest a more downer slant, but both songs continue to reflect the theme of owning one’s personal dilemmas while looking for the answers.
True to the record’s strong opening, Less Than Jake bookends Silver Linings with “So Much Less”, a classic album closer which is a mid-tempo – dare we almost say, adult-sounding? – ska number which apart from the usual brass instruments also features a relaxed saxophone solo. All told, the song comes off like a reassuring cup of coffee after a highly satisfactory meal. And the album, in many ways, is just that. Still, with a dozen strong and enjoyable tracks crammed into under thirty-seven minutes, Less Than Jake’s Silver Linings playbook seems to be as follows: get in, rock, get out. It’s clearly a winner strategy.