|I wouldnt say its about getting older, asserts drummer and lyricist Vinnie on the subject of the stunning new songs that comprise Less Than Jakes first new album in over three years. Its just that, like a lot of our fans and friends, weve turned a corner. Weve all been through some heavy changes, individually and as a planet, and priorities have changed. Substance is important. Telling the truth counts. |
Content, clarity and cutting to the chase: theyre all over Anthem, in riveting original material that takes Less Than Jakes trademark go-for-broke exuberance as a point of departure for an urgent and uncompromising exposure of millennial life on the ragged edge. We tried to write a whole different kind of song, says vocalist/guitarist Chris. We were interested in pushing boundaries, at the same time remaining true to who we are. As a band weve got to keep growing and the best way to do that is to make the music thats important to us.
Along the way Less Than Jake have consolidated their reputation as one of the most consistently inventive, accessible and authentic aggregates in modern music. After a solid decade on the road and in the studio, any group that can fashion as distinctive a collection of original tracks as those on Anthem, has obviously attained the collective creative telepathy that only longevity can bestow. Simply put, Less Than Jake are in it for the long haul and its a dedication that shines through in each note and every word of Anthem.
The genesis of Anthem can be traced to those fateful days at the end of summer 2001, when the landscape of our culture and consciousness changed forever. Something opened it, Vinnie reveals. It wasnt just the chaos that was going on around us, but the feeling that our own lives had reached a crossroads. They were hard times, but out of the trials came a lot of good music.
Twenty-seven songs to be exact. It was more than wed ever written at any one time, continues Chris. I think we all had the feeling that wed made a new start. We just wanted to follow our instincts wherever they took us.
Where they took the band, after intensive busts of rehearsals in their Gainesville, Florida home base, was New Orleans where Vinnie and bassist Roger laid down rhythm tracks in a spooky studio that once served as a mental hospital. The entire band then convened in the sunny climes of Malibu, California to begin tracking, working closely with producer Rob Cavallo of Green Day renown. Rob is one of the great producer- psychologists of all time, says Chris with a smile. He let us tinker around to our hearts content, but as soon as he sensed wed reach critical mass he started recording. He really knows how to finesse creativity.
For a group accustomed to keeping it short and sweet, the cutting of Anthem was almost leisurely. We mostly played live to the rhythm tracks, Chris reveals, and the whole process took about two months, spread over a three month time frame. We knew we were into some new musical territory and we wanted to get it right.
However long Anthem might have taken to get right was minimal compared to the changes and transformations charted on the thirteen tracks culled for inclusion on the album. Theres a good decade of my life on this record, Vinnie reveals. But, in the end, I think its about more than just me. Its about anyone whos ever had to work a meaningless job just to survive. Its about anyones who drinks to forget, anyone whos ever been desperate for change. These songs are about the alienation we all feel, and what it takes to make the connection to each other and world again. Its doesnt turn away from the truth, but it also doesnt give in to despair. Theres a lot to live for and hopefully thats what comes across in the music and in our history as a band.
There is an undeniable sense that Less Than Jake is writing a new chapter of that history with Anthem. From the sheer driving joy of such standout selections as Thats Why They Call It A Union to the lacerating intensity of the above mentioned single Shes Gonna Break Soon, to the albums surprise kicker, a rendition of Cheap Tricks classic Surrender, Anthem stubbornly hangs on to the proposition that truth telling can be as liberating as it is exhilarating. On Anthem, Less Than Jake gives us the best of both.