Less Than Jake - Hello Rockview (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Less Than Jake

Hello Rockview (1998)


While Pezcore holds a special place in my heart for the purity of its ska-core style, for my money the best Less Than Jake album is definitely Hello Rockview. It trades in some of the band’s early, rougher style for a more slick and polished pop sound with killer hooks and some heavily relatable themes that mostly revolve around growing up and feeling like the world has left you behind. Still, it keeps a punk rock punch behind all the ska horns, and makes for one hell of a fun, classic ska album. As if we needed any more proof of how memorable this album truly is, it’s one of only two albums, along with Losing Streak, that the band has recorded and released a live version of. The live version, complete with the band’s silly stage banter, is worth a listen as well.

The album starts off with what sounds like a voice through a megaphone saying “Last one out of Liberty City burn it to the ground,” which kicks off a blisteringly fast ska punk tune. It starts out the album’s primary theme of feeling left behind and feeling trapped in small town life. The song is mostly about being comfortable with one’s own self-identity, but talks about being stuck in the same town for years, a theme that continues to build through “Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding,” “History of a Boring Town,” “Danny Says,” and “Al’s War.” In many ways, it’s a very melancholy album, with one of the most popular songs off the album, “History of a Boring Town,” being the tragic centerpiece of the whole album, which, despite the upbeat tune, is a really sad song about feeling stuck in a small town. On the live version of the album, the band refers to “Danny Says” as the worst song on the album by far and, while it’s certainly sparse with the lyrics, the idea of seeing the death of a local punk scene ironically through the eyes of a 19-year old is a pretty interesting concept to me. I just would have liked to have seen it fleshed out a bit more. The album closes out on the same theme with “Al’s War” and its heartbreaking chorus:. “And sometimes I think that I’m the only one/That feels like going nowhere is like giving up.”

Not all of the album follows the same theme, though. The other most famous song off the album of course is “All My Best Friends are Metalheads,” a song about how prejudices keep us from getting to know good people. I never fully understood the idea of the song’s intro, as the speaker somehow seems to be trying to excuse and condemn racism at the same time, but the song itself deserves to be one of their biggest hits. “Great American Sharpshooter,” the very rare relationship song from the band that once said on another album “I think sex is overrated,” is about cheering up a friend who’s lost his girlfriend. It’s pretty generic in its lyrics, which keeps it pretty relatable, and it’s an extremely catchy song that’s great for cheering someone up after a tough heartbreak. “Richard Allen George…No, It’s Just Cheez” is much less generic, and builds up a very interesting character (who is explained in more explicit detail on the live album), but the track almost gets ruined by the vaguely racist group sing-along of something called “Cinco de Mustache” after the song is over.

I read somewhere once that Less Than Jake were supposedly the true successors to Operation Ivy. I think Less Than Jake are more like if Operation Ivy was a bit of a novelty act. Less Than Jake are silly fun at most times, but there are moments of true poetry that peek through in the lyrics and make an album like Hello Rockview that much more relatable. Hello Rockview is one of the great albums of ska’s third wave, and deserves its moment of celebration now 20 years later.