Free from a major-label contract and comfortably resting at their own newly created Sleep It Off Records, Less Than Jake do what most bands in similar situations do -- reach back to their roots and prove to fans that, despite any past musical transgressions, the band they loved so much years ago is back. And in doing so, Less Than Jake have essentially created a bittersweet tribute to their hometown of Gainesville, sparing no detail in naming the album GNV FLA, stringing the liner notes together with bleak snapshots of the city, and littering song names and lyrics with nods to both the state of Florida and the beloved college town of their inception. At first glance, it might appear that they're trying just a bit too hard to shed reminders of the recent past -- the shiny pop veneer of 2006's In with the Out Crowd only produced a handful of memorable songs, after all. But thankfully, the throwbacks to Less Than Jake's past run deeper than just the Sunshine State references -- they remember to convincingly bring back the tightened and exuberant ska-punk of their Hello Rockview days; Roger and Chris seamlessly switch off on vocals as driving power chords and sunny ska riffs alternately cut through hammering drumbeats, and high-spirited horns punch their way through it all. Light opener "City of Gainesville" may run on a lackadaisical, totally unassuming groove, but then "The State of Florida" explodes forth with barely a second between songs, disenchanted lyrics spat over a sped-up and charging rhythm section. The punk side of their ska-punk comes front and center and doesn't let up from the caffeinated riffs of "Does the Lion City Still Roar?" to the frantic woahs of "This One Is Going to Leave a Bruise." It's a joyous return for a band many may have already given up on, especially based on the overly sober and distant introspection of their last album. But on GNV FLA, Less Than Jake are still very much alive, and their exuberant, singalong melodies are heightened this time by actually being sung with heart, feeling, and a sense of fondness. Lyrics look back on drunken nights, former frustrations, and wasted hours spent doing nothing but getting through another day, but the mix of regret, defiance, disillusionment, and affection -- coupled, of course, with steamrolling rhythms, giddy guitars, and a resounding horn section -- makes GNV FLA seem like the album Less Than Jake needed to make, not just as a tribute to their past in Gainesville, but as proof to themselves and their fans that they still have it.
AllMusic Review by Corey Apar