One of the few things that can wash out the bad aftertaste of 2006's In with the Out Crowd is a look back at Less Than Jake's earlier days. Hopefully with every writing and recording decision seemingly back in the band's hands with the launch of their own label, Sleep It Off, we won't have to rely on reissues to remember Less Than Jake has -- generally -- been one of the more consistent and reliable third wave ska-pop-punk bands. However, second (or third) looks at albums like Goodbye Blue & White, Losers, Kings and Things We Don't Understand and Pezcore certainly don't hurt...or do they?
With their releases previously spread across a number of different labels (Asian Man, No Idea, Capitol, Fueled by Ramen, etc. al.), it makes sense that the band would want to compile them into their very own hands and onto one singular label. Still, the band's penchant for repackaging and reissuing their albums is admittedly growing tiresome. Pezcore was originally released on Dill Records in 1995, given a wider release via Asian Man later that year and given a 10th anniversary treatment in 2002 on Fueled by Ramen. Goodbye Blue & White originally saw a release on No Idea Records and was available exclusively through the band's mailorder; Fueled by Ramen altered the track listing a bit and re-released it later on. Losers is at least seeing its first reissue here.
Now, there are two major things meant to entice potential buyers. One is the massive packaging and slightly reconfigured artwork. All come in sharp, thick digipaks with, more or less, Day-Glo-ified versions of the album's original artwork. The second is the fact a DVD accompanies each release: Pezcore's is -- seemingly -- the February 2007 performance when the band played the album in its entirety. It’s a pretty straightforward performance, but the band sounds good and the video is plenty clear. It would be nice for Chris Demakes to have half as much energy as his bandmates, as he mostly stands in place stoically, but it isn’t too much of a bother. As for the other two albums, the band never actually played them in full -- recently, at least -- and thus they’re actually loose compilations of a majority of each album. Goodbye Blue & White fares a little better, but both essentially span practically the band’s entire existence, different band members and all. You get performances from some Halloween shows (and thusly some ridiculous costumes); fans on stage skanking to their favorite old tunes (the highlight is a guy Demakes describes as military-looking joining the band on stage to sing and dance along to “Losing Streak”); Demakes in a variety of bizarre get-ups; and interesting video -- be it fan-held camcorders or more professionally shot scenes -- of the band playing on outdoor or tiny club stages to sparse crowds. Warped Tours, basements -- it’s all here. It’s definitely an interesting compilation for the LTJ historian; however, the fact that the individual performances randomly fade in and out -- of songs from other albums or general banter -- certainly gives it a terribly choppy production flow.
The albums themselves are untouched. The track listings remain and no remixing and/or remastering jobs were applied. That’s fine, since the albums sounded okay in the first place. Pezcore is still a wonderful debut full of the band’s awesome, signature earnest early jams like “My Very Own Flag,” “Growing Up on a Couch” and “Where the Hell is Mike Sinkovich?”; while it hardly matches up with later releases, Losers actually sounds a bit better with age; still, Goodbye Blue & White remains an achingly mediocre collections disc, with most of its highlights coming in alternate versions of tracks that already appear on more popular albums (“Scott Farcas Takes It on the Chin,” “Cheez,” “Dopeman”). The liner notes for Pezcore and Losers contain the lyrics, while Blue & White’s is merely the full story of the band’s first touring van the album was named after.
With 2004’s The People’s History of Less Than Jake (apparently scheduled for a re-release, as well) already providing plenty of live documentation through the band’s career, only hardcore fans may carry interest in what’s basically the second and third parts of a trilogy. Additionally, chances are you already own one version or another of the above albums. However, those whose discographies are still absent of Pezcore and Losers have a decent amount of incentive to fulfill each’s physical presence. Goodbye Blue & White might be only for the most serious completist -- since a “normal” completist likely acquired it years ago, anyway.