It’s not hard to be a fan of Gainesville, Florida’s Less Than Jake. Album after album, their energetic brand of ska-influenced pop-punk fails to disappoint. The same, though, cannot be said for their imitators. First Grade Crush is one of these groups. On It’s Not You, It’s Me, they take a stab at the unmatchable LTJ sound and fail miserably.
Okay, so that’s not the nicest thing to say. After all, it’s their first album, and they seem like decent enough guys. But it’s tough to find redeeming qualities here. Production-wise, the album is terrible. It was not a good idea to put the vocals so up front, as the singer is quite lacking. Add to that equation, badly written, amateurish songs (lyrical sample: “Neon lights fucking with his head (Vertigo Man! Vertigo Man!) / He likes skins when they are dead (Vertigo Man! Vertigo Man!)”) and absolutely vomitous closing tracks (a horrible instrumental, a nonsense punk send-up called “Fruit Bears,” and a spoken thing about a waitress, replete with theremin wanking), and you’ve got one tanker of an album.
The high point of It’s Not You, It’s Me (and it’s a stretch) is actually a song about Less Than Jake. Or, more specifically, about Jessica, their now retired alto saxophonist. She has long been an object of desire among lonely ska-punk boys, and “Traffic Light Eyes” is dedicated to her. It’s a harmless enough little ditty with heartfelt lyrics, and is mildly enjoyable.
It’s Not You, It’s Me is not a good album. Still, don’t place First Grade Crush down for the count just yet. If they learn from their mistakes, perhaps by reading reviews like this one, they’ll come back with something decent. But until then, stay away from their debut.
// Notes from the Road
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