by Ryan Wasoba
Less Than Jake's upcoming February 11 show at Pop's has inspired A to Z to reminisce over the lost art of the ska/punk cover. The beauty is in its simplicity: It's the same song you know and love, just played faster and louder and splattered with horn lines. Less Than Jake has mastered the cover song time and time again with a catalog which includes "Hungry Like The Wolf," "I Think I Love You," most of the Grease soundtrack, and dozens of others. With so many re-interpreted hits under its belt, LTJ's well may seem like it has run dry. Allow us to help: Here is our list of eight songs that Less Than Jake should cover.
John Cougar, "Hurts So Good" Some of LTJ's best work has been rockers that toe the line between mid-tempo and blazing fast: "Last One Out Of Liberty City," "9th at Pine," the entire Borders and Boundaries record. "Hurts So Good" by the pre-Mellencamp John Cougar is right up the band's alley. (See: LTJ's take on "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister.) Chris Demakes' semi-snotty voice would gravel nicely hitting those high notes during "come on baaaaaaaaby," and it's easy to imagine a thousand fists giving three fist pumps to "..make it HURT SO GOOD."
Styx, "Come Sail Away" While Less Than Jake isn't exactly a one-trick pony, its ambition to date has mostly involved variations of firing and re-hiring its horn section. The group has the chops to get its prog on, and "Come Sail Away" could be the perfect vehicle to open some new doors. And thanks in no small part to a rousing rendition by South Park fatty Eric Cartman, the song has enough kitsch to make it a hit with the youngsters. Little Shop Of Horrors cast, "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" One of Less Than Jake's most ridiculous concepts was Greased, a 1997 EP featuring eight songs from the Grease musical soundtrack. It would be the absolutely most outlandish act in LTJ's career if the band hadn't released a record shaped like a wedge of cheese. The strangeness of Greased was how well the musical's '50s-throwback pop meshed with the band's hyperactive sugarcoated punk. The next logical step would be for LTJ to take on "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" from Little Shop Of Horrors. It comes off like the twisted sister of Grease, like poodle skirts with anarchy patches sewn on. Plus, the implied naughty word sets Chris Demarkes up for some good natured profanity to take it over the PG-rated edge.
My Bloody Valentine, "When You Sleep" Ska/punk covers are not all about the irony. There's also the "cred cover;" the song whose main function is to prove the band members' expanded palettes. For instance, Streetlight Manifesto did it with "Such Great Heights" by the Postal Service, while Atom and His Package did it with "Going to Georgia" by the Mountain Goats. Both were terrible, so how could Less Than Jake covering "When You Sleep," the raddest song on My Bloody Valentine's landmark Loveless, be any worse? The track's opening melody would translate easily to LTJ's brass section, and Buddy Schaub's trombone could slide slowly between the notes to recreate the woozy synth's variable pitches. Conceptually, it's cringe-worthy. But I suspect it would be surprisingly listenable.
Taio Cruz, "Dynamite" "Dynamite" is one of the few modern mass-appeal pop songs that would translate nicely to power chords and wouldn't force a rock frontman to take a stab at rapping. Bump up the BPMs a few notches, stick some clean guitar up-strokes in the verse, and then stomp on the distortion channel and throw the drums into double time for the chorus. Close your eyes, you can hear it already. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, "American Girl" LTJ drummer Vinne Fiorello hasn't been given as much room to shine on the band's last few outings, so I propose the band takes on "American Girl." Like almost every track on Less Than Jake's Hello Rockview, "American Girl" is all about the beat. Sure, the vocal hooks seal the deal, but it's that kick and snare that make the song move. Layered with sunny chords and some gang vocals on the "make it last all night" lines in the chorus, and this Tom Petty classic is only a few F-bombs and booze references away from being an actual Less Than Jake song.
Madness, "Our House" This may be sacrilegious; Madness was one of the definitive ska bands of the '80s, and "Our House" is its most recognizable song. But to my knowledge, no third-wave ska punk band has tackled this one. The new wave crossover hit is just begging to be sped up and punked out. It would be easy, yes, but it would also be awesome. Which one is more important?
The Office Theme Song Before Goodburger was a movie, it was a skit on the Nickelodeon network show All That. And before "We're All Dudes" was a real song, it was a little ditty sung casually in said sketch by a burnout fast food employee played by Kel Mitchell. For the Goodburger official motion picture soundtrack, Less Than Jake expanded "We're All Dudes" into a full-fledged track with verses, choruses, and deep sentiments like "just hanging out, just having fun, we're number one."
Similarly, The Office theme song is awesome; all thirty five seconds of it. While I'm nervous to give LTJ the assignment of writing lyrics to the brief instrumental, "We're All Dudes" is proof of the band's ability to make something out of almost nothing.