[26 March 2013]
While ska-punk may have largely died out in the late ‘90s, a few survivors like Less Than Jake have continued to plug away in the 21st century. Less Than Jake were never really beholden to the somewhat limited sonic palette of traditional ska, which invited derision from purists but allowed them to thrive with a larger, punk-oriented audience. They tend to rely on melodic hooks and high energy, and Greetings and Salutations doesn’t mess with that formula. This album is actually a resequenced compilation of two limited-release EP’s with a pair of extra unreleased songs.
There are songs here that definitely have the feel of B-sides. “Can’t Yell Any Louder” doesn’t have much going for it beyond a nifty horn intro/outro while “View From the Middle” is a “hey, there are shades of grey to everything” punk diatribe without a hook. But by and large, this album is full of strong material. “Goodbye, Mr. Personality” is a compelling ska track with a hell of a catchy refrain buoyed by a melody that’s right in guitarist Chris Demakes’ grainy vocal wheelhouse. “Flag Holders Union” is a driving rocker with a nihilistic chorus that says “I’ve thrown most of my life away!” over a perfectly blaring, nearly out of tune trombone line. “Oldest Trick in the Book” changes things up with an easygoing, bouncy feeling, but immediately after that, the dark, minor key “Done and Dusted” marries drummer Vinnie Fiorello’s typically recrimination-filled lyrics to a pounding, horn-filled chorus. With 20 years under their belts, Less Than Jake isn’t going to unleash any surprises with their new material, but they continue to put out high quality music.