What's hard about reviewing Less Than Jake's techno remixes of 2004's B Is For B-Sides isn't the score, or whether you should buy it, but it's what the proverbial meterstick is for this CD.
If you're expecting a full on techno twisting of their latest full-length, this ain't it. If you're expecting some of the best DJs in the world putting their mitts on the songs, you'll be surprised. If you're looking at this release as anything but B Is For B-Sides put through a synthesizer and drum machine, you'll be disappointed.
To that end, there's no liner notes, no mention of where, when or how these remixes were produced, composed or recorded. There's no jewel case, but instead the CD is packaged in a cd sleeve. The art on that sleeve, done by Buff Monster, is odd, but technically sound. Its release was limited to 2000 copies, and at the time I wrote this, was being sold on the Fueled By Ramen / Drive-Thru Records tour exclusively. There's no evidence of any record label on the jewel case, either.
I don't pretend to know much about electronic music, but in most cases the beats follow the guitar and horn parts like a training horse. That is, to say, as faithful as it can to the path it learned, but with occasional deviations. One thing that drove me up a wall was that the vocals were almost EXACTLY the same as on B Is For B-Sides, so no song is drastically different than the one found on last year's version.
That said, this version of "Robots One, Humans Zero" is the album's most experimental track (calling it experimental is digging a little too deep for comfort, though), and its drum-heavy, somber arrangement only adds to the depression of the original and stands as the album's best track. It's an amazing version, and if you can find it, it's worth the time to listen.
Going back to the meterstick analogy, if this is being judged as a new album with wildly different versions of your favorite tracks off of B Is For B-Sides, it fails miserably. If this is being judged as listenable material by a usually solid writing group, then it's passable. If this is being judged as Less Than Jake screwing with a synthesizer and drum machine, then it passes with flying colors. In short: These remixes sound like the group just wanted to compose B Is For B-Sides using different instruments. The MP3 of "Bridge And Tunnel Authority" below is sadly representative of the album. If you download it, you'll hear what I mean.
In short, this is a botched opportunity. It could have been something truly interesting. All in all, I just wish Less Than Jake had taken more chances.
Bridge And Tunnel Authority