Like a lot of people I was, if not raised by television, raised in an era where television was a large part of my upbringing. As such, there are jingles and theme songs that are heavily ingrained in my memory; at the slightest prompt, I can recall the lyrics and the tune, and bust out in song. Less Than Jake's latest release, TV/EP, is an album that speaks to all of us who are a part of this grouping.
An EP that compiles 16 tracks in about 13 minutes of music, TV/EP was recorded in LTJ bassist Roger Lima's basement, collecting a variety of jingles and TV themes that run from vintage to recent and span from obscure to well known. They're not even parodies of the tunes, they are straightforward reconstruction of melodies that were meant to stick in your brain, recrafted and recreated in the stylings of Less Than Jake.
While many jingles are crafted by studio musicians who will remain largely nameless and unassociated with their creations, a few of the songs almost qualify as straightforward covers of songs, being that the themes were created by well known bands. The theme for Malcolm in the Middle was performed by They Might Be Giants, That '70s Show was performed by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell of Big Star or Cheap Trick, depending on the season, and Married With Children which was Frank Sinatra's "Love and Marriage" are all examples of songs that have been co-opted to being better known for being TV themes than for being original songs in their own rights. That fact is a testament of the power of TV, but their inclusion on the EP is a testament to the strength of the songs.
A huge surprise on the introspective bent was the fact that I knew all of the words to things that I hadn't thought of in years; the theme to Animaniacs, the Hungry Hungry Hippos commercial and even the obscure Pac Man Cereal song were all songs that came back to me so quickly that I was perhaps just a bit frightened at the invasive way that television has, over the years, insidiously found its way into my subconscious and taken up memory space that could have been devoted to other items that maybe could have made high school precalculus a little easier.
The only song that caught me completely unknowing is the EP's opener, which is the theme to iCarly, a Nickelodeon kids sitcom that is big in the world of my nieces. It's incongruent with the rest simply because I don't know it, but that doesn't remove it from TV's catalog of themes by any means.
I would have loved to hear more songs; I would have loved for this to be a full-blown LP with 40 such tracks on it, and I would have loved to have been able to suggest songs - Small Wonder, anyone? Or maybe the Suncheros commercial? - but even as an EP this album is a blast and works in any situation.
Sure, it's light on substance and lacking in the introspective and often bittersweet musings that make up the majority of Less Than Jake's catalog, but that's not what TV/EP is about. It's about recalling collective memories from and distant and not so distant pop culture references, and provides a starting point for the recollection of many great memories.