Jake Speaks

A band's namesake tells all, sort of.

Gainesville's Less Than Jake has had its hand in the ska/pop-punk game for 14 years now. You know who they are. You've heard their music. You might have even heard how the band got its name, from drummer Vinnie Fiorello's dog. But have you ever heard his — Jake's — side of the story? Outtakes did... and we're kind of wishing we hadn't.

Outtakes:So what's your beef with Vinnie? Has he been skimping on the Doggy Bites?

Jake the Dog: If that ain't enough, that bastard has been exploiting me for more than a decade now. Tell me, how does he think he can name a band after someone without giving him credit or, at least, some type of reward? Hell, I didn't even get the chance to use it to score some hot bitches 'cause he had me neutered the moment he started touring.

What about the rest of the band?

Eh. They're OK guys, I guess... for humans. But didn't ska-punk die, like, five years ago?

They still have fans. And I think maybe you're underestimating how contagious ska-punk-cum-power-pop tunes can be.

Ringworm is contagious too. But you don't see folks lining up to rub against my ass to take it home with them, do you?

We're getting off topic here. So, what does the name "Less Than Jake" mean to the band?

Well, when they were younger, back when they didn't have their fame to help get them laid, they used to use me to rate things, kind of like how Siskel and Roeper use their thumbs.

Can you give an example?

You know, like, "Hey, how much does this song rock?" "Less than Jake, definitely." Or maybe, "Steel Magnolias is the best movie ever." "Yeah, it's greater than Jake."

So you thinkSteel Magnolias is the best movie ever?

Um, I never, ah, I never said that.

So everything is "less than" or "greater than" Jake?

Pretty much.

What about "equal to"? Is that an option, like, "Is it less than, greater than, or equal to Jake?"

Are you a fucking retard?

Partially. But I don't see how that's relevant. Excuse me, can you not lick your balls in front of me?

What's wrong? Do I make you feel "less than Jake"?

Excuse me?

It's a joke. I mean, do my big balls make yours feel less than, you know, me? Har har. Come on, laugh, you dumbass! It's funny! Unless, of course, yours really are... Oh, they are, aren't they?

Can we drop the subject?

Sorry, buddy. I didn't mean anything by it.

It's not my fault. It's genetics, really. I'm just your regular, everyday son of a bitch. Cole Haddon

Less Than Jake performs with Catch 22, the Loved Ones, and New Mexican Disaster Squad on Wednesday, September 20, at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $18.50 to $20. Call 954-564-1074, or visit www.cultureroom.net.Invert That Frown

Dear Thom,

You're probably staggering under weighty preoccupations — Iraq-botch fallout, Israel-Hezbollah imbroglio, Big Brother — but lay off the cryptic sourball imagery and cheer up already. Even in chaos, diversions and pleasures abound. We hoped you'd relax a bit after Hail to the Thief, but The Eraser's grim-faced tightropes confirmed our worst fears. Here are some suggestions on how to lighten up.

1. Join a paintball league. Then wear the spattered suit everywhere for a few weeks. No one — least of all you — will take you so damned seriously.

2. Post a photo of Zach de la Rocha on your wall. If you ever fret that Radiohead isn't releasing new material often enough to further "the cause," remember that the self-styled revolutionary has released only one measly song in six years.

3. Trash all those goth and IDM CDs and pick up Art Brut's debut, which is so bonkers it should be on Prozac. Bonus for your audience: Bring Art Brut on tour.

4. Visit conflict-ridden countries and streak. This will (a) earn Radiohead a certain roguish notoriety, (b) help you tap more adrenaline and dispel more stress than riding roller coasters, while (c) perhaps bewildering the warring parties into a ceasefire as they stare at the insane British rock star leaping, stark naked, from bomb crater to bomb crater.

5. It's hard to believe that the playful curiosity of your two children hasn't rubbed off on you. Joining their games and fantasies would do wonders for your mood; it sure beats skulking about the manor, mumbling "I will eat you alive" and generally scaring the bejesus out of everybody. Ray CummingsRadios Reappear

If there were any justice in rock 'n' roll, all we'd have to say is Radio Birdman and new album and you'd be creaming your pants with excitement. But as it is, your likely response to the release of Zeno Beach, the group's first album in 25 years, is probably one of befuddlement. Though the Aussie six-piece made quite a racket in the early days of punk (that's the late-'70s, you know), it never took off in the States — even with a Michigan native like Deniz Tek leading the guitar assault.

The Birdmen released their classic album, Radios Appear, in 1977. A year later, they recorded a follow-up, Living Eyes, which fell prey to some serious record-label bungling and wasn't released until 1981 — three years after the band split up. Time passed. Side projects came and went, most notably the New Christs, New Race, and the Hitmen. But in 1996, the former Birdmen had grown tired of being former Birdmen. The group re-formed, doing random tours and festival gigs in Australia and Europe. It wasn't until 2006 — with the release of Zeno Beach and the band's first U.S. tour (which doesn't include Florida, unsurprisingly) — that Radio Birdman returned to form.

Now, there are few things as nerve-racking as the first time you pop in your favorite band's reunion disc. There are two things fans fear most: (1) that the album will suck rhinoceros balls, and (2) that it'll suck rhinoceros balls while trying to mimic whatever's popular at the moment. Thankfully, Zeno Beach is every bit as smokin' as one could hope — no rhinos were harmed during the recording. For the most part, Tek's guitar leads and Phillip "Pip" Hoyle's keyboard lines sound straight off Radios Appear. The biggest change is in Rob Younger's vocals, which are more nuanced nowadays. The deadpan, monotone cool of early tracks like "We've Come So Far (To Be Here Today)" and "Connected" give way to softer, more plaintive vocals on songs like "Die Like April" and "Heyday." It'll undoubtedly draw Strokes comparisons, but that's just plain unfair. The Strokes aren't fit to carry these guys' guitars, let alone be compared to 'em. So forget you even read that. Just buy the damned album already and give Radio Birdman its due. Jason Budjinski

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