Less Than Jake

Losers, Kings, and Things We Don't Understand

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Less Than Jake were far from novices when they entered the studio to record their 1995 debut album, Pezcore. Formed in 1992, they came into their own the following year with an exuberant blend of melodic ska-punk. Their enthusiasm was infectious, translating easily from the stage onto disc. By 1994, the group was barraging indie labels with its music, and in turn its 7" and 10" singles peppered the scene, with ubiquitous appearances on numerous compilations of the day. Thus it was to the relief of their many fans that in 1996 LTJ released Losers, Kings, and Things We Don't Understand, a 20-track set that bundled up many of their singles and compilation offerings. Of course, Pezcore was a classic set, but this one arguably best captures the spirit of the band's early years. It's the sheer exhilaration of the music that initially clobbers listeners, all zippy tempos, high-energy performances, and an unerring ear for a melody. In later years, LTJ would list the early Bay Area bands as their strongest influence, but initially they thanked Snuff for turning them from just another generic new-school group into something special. Their horns certainly made LTJ stand out, but listen hard and you'll hear the group's own twists on punk, from the snip of funk that infests "Econolodged" to the twist of hard rock that pops up on "Pez King" and "Wish Pig," the '60s riffs that rip through "Shotgun" and "Glumble," and the jubilant take on old-school punk reinvented for a new generation. As for their covers, like Sid Vicious' take on "My Way," LTJ appropriate songs and make them their own. Although filled with anthems of the age, not every track here is a winner -- one can't bash out this much music this fast and turn out a gem every time -- but there are no clunkers, either. Every longstanding fan has his/her favorite tracks, and this reissue now allows members of a whole new generation to find their own within. A must-have set.

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