Friday, January 13, 2012

The Elite of Just Alright - In With the Out Crowd

I don't think I know a single person who likes Less Than Jake that will admit to enjoying Less Than Jake's In With the Out Crowd. That's not entirely true but it wouldn't be far off from saying that for every one person who does say they like it, there are at least twenty to twenty-five people who hate it. People disliked Anthem, too, although I've seen more people jump to that album's defense than they have In With the Out Crowd. Much like Rancid's Indestructible, Less Than Jake found themselves with an extremely polarizing record among their fanbase.

A lot of the hate comes from the fact that the songs just sound different. The band's brass section only makes an appearance on a handful of tracks while the rest of the songs focus on the standard rock format- vocals, guitar, bass, drums and a catchy, well-produced chorus. The band acknowledges that most of the fans strongly dislike the album (the last two times I saw them live they would make comments such as "we released an album two years ago that you all hated... here's a song from it!") but I don't think that the band is given enough credit for this album. Okay, I would be lying if I said I wasn't one of those fans who thought that the album could have used more horns on it but I was just in denial that my favorite third wave ska bands were finding less and less use for their horn section. If Streetlight Manifesto could always find something for their brass instruments even when they weren't playing ska, why couldn't other bands?

But when I actually listened to the songs, I began to realize that they weren't all that bad. There are a few things that happened in between when this album dropped and when I began to enjoy it, but it mostly has to do with the fact that during my freshman year of college I began to listen to the entire Descendents discography outside of Milo Goes to College, and I finally was able to get my hands on some ALL albums which broadened my pop punk spectrum. I also went through a Foo Fighters phase in between my first and second years of college (and if there's anything that can be said about the Foo Fighters, it's that they know how to write a damn good chorus).

With this in mind, take another listen to it. Maybe Stephen Egerton doesn't throw a whole lot of upstrokes into his playing like Chris does, or maybe Karl Alvarez will take his bass for a walk in different patterns from Roger, but it doesn't change that a lot of these songs have a heavy ALL influence on them. There's also a slight hint of Epitaph-era Descendents in some of the songs, with the straight forward power chords and whatnot. Rest of My Life sounds kind of like a blink-182 song, but that's probably because Mark Hoppus co-wrote it. This is, for all intents and purposes, a pop punk album and it has it written all over. It's actually more surprising that people don't like this album, as pop punk has been a pretty standard genre for Less Than Jake. Even in the lyric booklet for Pezcore they had a little cartoon guy complaining about how the band got some "pop punk in [his] ska." That's not really evidence for why people should like the album- but it is a sign that the band has always known that they played pop punk with horns, so for them to go and write a bunch of pop punk songs isn't really all that surprising.

Some people complain about the song writing and how it has deteriorated over the years. With the exception of Overrated (Everything Is), (which is just an ode to complaining about not liking anything), the album seems to be pretty straightforward Less Than Jake. I'm not going to pretend to be a lyrical expert, but knowing that there were ten years in between the releases of Losing Streak and In With the Out Crowd, it's no surprise that maybe the band has shifted gears in subject matter. People complain about bands like blink-182 writing about being a kid when they're in their 30's, but then a band like Less Than Jake stops writing songs about being young and the same people still whine. There's just no pleasing some people.

I don't want to say that people just need to shut up and widen their musical tastes a little more in order to enjoy this album, because that's kind of cliché but also because it's kind of pretentious. While it might be far from their best work, but In With the Out Crowd is still a solid pop punk album that doesn't get the credit that it deserves.

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