Less Than Jake at 30 – Part 6: B is for B-Sides

A lot changed in my life during the 14 months between the release of Anthem and its companion record B is for B-Sides. I was in my first proper relationship, I’d left school and was getting ready to start college in the Autumn. My friends were going through similar developments in their lives and collectively we were veering away from the sweet simplicity of Summer 2003.

The LTJ songs soundtracking this time were shifting with us and we had a 10 new ones to enjoy in 2004. Technically the record is 12 tracks in length, but we were already familiar with two of them. A.S.A.O.K and Sobriety is a Serious Business and Business isn’t so Good were actual b-sides, appearing on the singles She’s Gonna Break Soon and Science of Selling Yourself Short respectively.

All 26 songs from Anthem and B is for B-Sides were recorded in the same time period, with the band pulling double duty using the major label tools at their disposable to make another record during the hours outside of the sessions for the main release. I believe this was hinted at in the legendary ‘Making of..’ DVD that came packaged with the Anthem deluxe edition, with plenty of snippets of songs ‘missing’ from the record featured. It’s uncharacteristically like me to draw a blank on this one, but I can’t remember when an official confirmation of a second disc came.

For two albums that were recorded within a breath of each other, time has given each set of songs a distinction in my mind that would distance them from the idea of being interchangeable. There’s not one from B is for B-Sides that would sit comfortably on Anthem for me and vice versa. Which is crazy talk really, they’re not all that dissimilar, A.S.A.O.K and Short Fuse Burning (from Anthem) could be contenders for a LTJ exchange programme. The Ghosts Of Me and You and Sleep It Off even share a melody that the band confessed to have ‘borrowed’ from themselves.

So what is it that sets B is for B-Sides apart from it’s bigger, more popular brother? I think there’s an intensity to these songs that is lost a little bit in the grandeur of the lead record. If Anthem is the Summer blockbuster, B-Sides is the indie sleeper hit. Tracks on the latter are left a little looser, with soundbites like the party conversation adding to the aesthetic of this being the victory lap after the main race. There’s less to prove this time around, without undermining the significance, or enjoyment of what came before this.

When revisiting Anthem I wrote about my week long struggle to find the deluxe edition, and how the standard release was taunting me throughout my search. For B-Sides the luxury of either option would have been a fine thing. It was near impossible to find in the week it debuted. I have a photographic memory of being on Poole High Street, early Monday morning and seeing Ed from a distance, marching into Woolworths full of optimism. I’d already completed my run of the town but couldn’t catch up with him quick enough to break the bad news.

I had a stroke of luck not long after this when my friend Jim was visiting his family in Yateley and found a copy at The Rock Box, an independent record shop in nearby Camberley. They’re still going strong today, unlike Woolworths who, well, you know that story. Many years later I bought a few vinyl records from The Rock Box’s online store and they’re certainly one of the better players out there when it comes to the attention paid to packaging.

Last year, we finally got a vinyl release of B is for B-Sides along with the repress of Anthem. To date I’m still without a physical edition of the slight oddity that is B is for B-Sides Remixed. That it’s the b-sides record which got this treatment just adds to the randomness. I do love a few of these though and would love to hear more LTJ songs reworked in this fashion.

By rarely playing any of these songs live the band have contributed to this album achieving a bit of a cult-like status in their discography. We were treated to a surprise inclusion of National Anthem on the set list for this year’s UK tour. Here’s a clip I filmed from the closing night in London.

Favourite track: There’s a few that are tough for me to pick between now, but my favourite in 2004 was definitely Bridge and Tunnel Authority. The lyrics were always part of the draw for me with LTJ, but there was something about the stride Vinnie was hitting on some of these songs and into the next record that were next level for me. The stories and themes felt as if they were beginning to intertwine with my own life, as life began to feel like it had more depth to it.

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