Hello Rockview is Less Than Jake’s greatest album by far, and it constantly vies with Weezer’s first album as my pick for greatest CD ever made. Much of Rockview feels like a concept album about growing up in a small town and eventually trying to escape. All of the songs deal with the types of feelings and decisions that many teenagers face, eventually cumulating in the final song “Al’s War” where the protagonist is able to leave home and start a new life. This album has always held special place for me because the first time I heard it I was stuck at home while all my friends had gone off to college and left me behind. Many of the songs seemed to be speaking directly to me.
Hello Rockview was LTJ’s final album released by Capitol Records, and even though it is considered by many to be a masterpiece, it never got the fame it deserved. The fact that this album couldn’t make a big splash even with a major label marketing machine behind it no doubt facilitated LTJ’s decision to leave Capitol for Fat Wreck Chords.
- Last One Out of Liberty City
- Help Save The Youth of America From Exploding
- All My Best Friends are Metalheads
- Five State Drive
- Nervous in the Alley
- History of A Boring Town
- Great American Sharpshooter
- Danny Says
- Big Crash
- Theme Song for H Street
- Richard Allen George...No, It's Just Cheez
- Scott Farcas Takes it on the Chin
- Al’s War
The first track “Last One Out of Liberty City” opens with the declaration “Last one out of Liberty City, burn it to the ground!” and the lyrics perfectly set the stage for the rest of the album. Our hero is beginning to question the decisions he has made and he keeps running into people that have escaped from town and are wondering what happened to him. The line “and the other night this guy came up to me downtown/and can't believe that after 5 years I'm still around/and he said, wasn't I the guy who walked these streets all night?” is obviously a reference to many other Less Than Jake songs where walking around all night is a common theme. I like to think that they’re specifically talking about the song “One Last Cigarette.”
“Help Save The Youth of America From Exploding” is one of the aforementioned standard LTJ songs about walking around and smoking. The protagonist walks the streets saying that his life is “the same old story of growing up and getting lost” and “right now, the world just seems too big.” According to the liner notes, the guitar solo is modeled after one of Chris’ favorite Motley Crüe records. Roger and Chris also have some excellent two-part harmonies working during this song.
“All My Best Friends are Metalheads” is a song about racism and not judging people by how they look. It leans more to the ska side of LTJ’s style and the horn parts are wonderful. The song opens with a sample from what sounds like a 1950s educational film that reminds us not to think "that all teenagers are drunken dope addicts who are glue sniffers.” Vinnie, the band’s drummer and lyricist says this is one of his favorite songs.
“Five State Drive” is one of the best driving songs ever written. This is another song where the horn section really stands out along with Roger’s loopy bass line.
In “Nervous in the Alley” our character questions whether he has the guts to actually get in a fight with somebody.
if I put myself to the test
would I ever raise a fist?
would I just shut my mouth?
would I just block it out?
He hates the feelings of hopelessness surrounding him, but wonders whether hitting people is the right way to go about solving it. This song serves as an excellent companion to the LTJ song “9th and Pine”, which is about witnessing a fight and wondering whether or not you should stop it.
“Motto” is a fast paced punk song about holding on to your sanity that gives the horn section a break. It really just serves as a showcase of the vocal interplay between Roger and Chris.
“History of A Boring Town” puts us back into the narrative of the rest of the album. Our hero is yet again bemoaning the fact that he is still stuck at home, but this time he is sharing it with a woman that also feels trapped there. They both lament their wasted potential (“we were the ones they said would always leave”) and drown their sorrows in alcohol.
“Great American Sharpshooter” ranks as one of the best break-up songs of all time. The guitars are quick and snarly as Chris and Roger attempt to console the listener Rooster Cogburn-style (“I don't want to hear you say ‘nobody can take her place’/and what more can I say, you didn't need her anyways”). Quick and painless.
I regard “Danny Says” as a one of the few weak points on the album. It talks about a teenager who’s “burnt out on the scene” and tired of adults reminiscing of how things used to be. But he’s also “just getting by on the memories.” The instrumentation isn’t all that compelling and there are far too many “wooo-ooo-ooo’s” for my taste.
The lyrics in “Big Crash” again speak out to those of us who feel alienated:
Sometimes, I think something's wrong with me
because I was never one to believe in anyone or anything
it's always been just me
It also talks about not following other people’s big plans and how you should listen you your own dreams instead. It is also one of the rare LTJ
tracks that feature Roger doing some solo singing.
“Theme Song for H Street” is another song recalling about the way things used to be in town and now everyone has moved away. Really just run of the mill, nothing stands out.
“Richard Allen George...No, It's Just Cheez” is another Less Than Jake cliché: The song about a guy they know. (See also: “Where The Hell is Mike Sinkovich” and “Mr. Chevy Celebrity.”) It’s a real hardcore song about a drunken friend who’s obsessed with the band Fear. This track also has a song called “Cinco de Moustache.” Apparently all the guys on the Ska Against Racism tour decided to grow moustaches and they declared May 5th to be their official holiday. It’s a funny little jingle.
My pick for the best song on the album is “Scott Farcas Takes it on the Chin” This is the song where all the instrumentation perfectly comes together. The horns blare out and carry the melody as Roger’s funky bass line and Vinnie’s drumming carry the beat. This song should be your Less Than Jake litmus test about whether you might like the band. Go download it now.
The album reaches it narrative climax on the final track, “Al’s War.” It is all about leaving your family behind and starting your own life. I can’t describe the power of this song any better than Inyo does in his w/u for the lyris to this.
All of the songs on Hello Rockview are loud and fast and excellent. Many times the horn section takes the place of the lead guitarist and carries the melody while Roger and Chris duet on the vocals. It is definitely a sunny day album, so wait for that perfect day, pop this CD into your car, and just drive.