I pretty unapologetically despised Less Than Jake's last proper "effort" Anthem. It says a lot when the B-sides from the album form a more cohesive, honest and enjoyable album from a band, in my opinion. To say that I had written the band off at that point, after at least 7 years as a fan, would be a slight overstatement. Slight.
Well, here we are, two years later, and the band has released their teaser EP for the upcoming In With the Out Crowd, Absolution for Idiots and Addicts. Of the four songs, two are non-album tracks and one is a special "EP version." "Overrated (Everything Is)" is set to be the first single and is, well, kind of boring. It's not "She's Gonna Break Soon"'s level of mediocre, but it's totally uninspired. It's got so many "whoa-ohs" for no apparent reason. There's just a lot going on in the speakers, but very little of substance.
"Negative Sides of Optimistic Eyes" starts off with some solid bass work by Roger, and some nice horn work. The vocals sound very similar to "The Ghosts of Me and You," the most solid track on Anthem. In fact, the whole song reminds me of that, but a bit rawer. However, in the middle it kind of sounds like early Blink-182 covering LTJ, if that makes any sense at all.
The third track, "We, the Uninspired," sounds like Losing Streak and Hello Rockview. In fact, it sounds equal parts those records so much it's amazing that it doesn't sound forced. It even has slight tinges of the more "rock" sound that they explored on Borders and Boundaries. It's short, fast and enjoyable, and the highlight for sure.
And then, there's "The Rest of My Life." When this track was released for streaming, I said "This song is actually interesting at least. Marks a change that isn't just Pro-Tooling their sound," and I definitely stand by that. However, be sure that this is adult-contemporary Less Than Jake. There are some horns buried in there, some synthesized strings I believe, and that really weird guitar solo sound. It's catchy, but Vinnie and company have yet to write a song that isn't.
I know at this point, I sound like the crotchety old man who "just wants it the way it used to be," and that's partially true. I was right behind LTJ when they changed from Losing Streak to Rockview, and I loved Borders. It was a very organic, natural progression. The Less Than Jake of the past few years has bored and disappointed me, and it appears to continue. This EP cost me 4 dollars on iTunes, and while I'm glad to pay it, I could just as well have never heard it and been fine to spin my older albums and wait for the band to start writing from their hearts again, instead of their wallets. There's a glimmer of hope here for that in "We, the Uninspired" but I fear that the fact that it's a "non-album track" smothers that glimmer with the OC-friendly strummy guitars of "The Rest of My Life." This isn't to say that newer fans won't enjoy all of this, it just doesn't feel like the same band anymore. The songs are sugary and catchy, and just don't have that "special something" that drew myself, and many people of my age to the band 10 years ago.