Review Summary: Flobots manage to create a beautiful and enticing indie/hip-hop album with an intelligent, political backdrop leading the way.
There is a war going on for your mind; among commercials, advertisements, the news, media (yes, critics included), and countless other parts of life. It is this facet of society that is trying to grab your vote, your dollar, or whatever it may be. Now meet Flobots, a band who teeters with everyday political and ethical topics in a respectably sophisticated manner. Oh yeah, did I mention that there is a war going on for your mind? The Colorado natives combine hip-hop with indie rock, producing a tastefully fresh sound behind their lyrical endeavors. It is that kind of sound that just might open ears and eyes in the same movement. After all, there is a war going on for your mind.
Flobot’s album, Fight With Tools
, marks their major label debut. Their recognition may accredited to their single, “Handlebars,” which is practically the epitome of incredible
indie/hip-hop music. Through a delightfully charming viola and trumpet, vocalist Johnny 5 smoothly sings and raps a defiant message about corporate big-wigs versus everyday common people in an almost theatrical movement. What starts out with viola plucking evolves into a deep and passionate song, feverishly building into an epic release of energy. “Handlebars” assembles upon every craftily constructed verse in an almost call-and-response effect making it brilliantly effective with lines as a ordinary kid, ‘I can show you how to do-si-do/I can show you how to scratch a record/ I can take apart the remote control/ and I can almost put it back together…’ versus a corporate machine, ‘I can hand out a million vaccinations/ or let‘em all die in exasperation/ have’em all healed from their lacerations/ or have’em all killed by assassination,’ but even these lines barely tell the story. Even so, Johnny 5 isn’t the only one in the vocal and lyrical spotlight. Brer Rabbit and Johnny 5 do the majority of the vocal work together, which is generally split in half according to the song. The flow between Rabbit and Johnny are flawless in “The Rhythm Method (Move!),” which contains a joint ‘on-command’ instrumental section behind a steady beat. Even violist, Mackenzie Roberts shows her elegant voice with Brer Rabbit in the hypnotizing and upbeat “Never Had It” (which features a pretty bada
ss guitar solo if I don’t say so myself). But with every vocalist and lyricist comes the backbone and heart to every song.
Musically, Flobots are a cohesive unit that ultimately provides a thick layer behind the vicarious raps of Rabbit and Johnny. Generally the instruments can be placed into an indie/alternative-rock/pop genre with a funk twist. “Fight With Tools” and “Mayday!!!” are both musical highlights. “Fight With Tools” is lead by a silky smooth bass-line (reminiscent of Morning View
-esque Incubus at times) with fluttering viola strums in the background while the guitar remains casually relaxed. Meanwhile, “Mayday!!!” carries away with staccato alternative guitar work alongside the always welcome trumpet appearance. Elsewhere, during “Stand Up,” the viola work is as elegant as something Owen Pallett from Final Fantasy would conjure up but with a much greater intensity. “Rise Up” combines all of these elements within Fight With Tools
in the sense that every instrument works together, cohesively. And as cliché as “Rise Up” may sound, it really doesn’t falter in its final product. It may be because for the past forty-five minutes Flobots managed to create a beautiful and enticing album with an intelligent, political backdrop.
While most of the Fight With Tools
is pretty damn impressive, there are just moments that never find their fit within the album. Still even with the lack of a truly cohesive album, it is hard to overlook the achievements lyrically and musically like in “Handlebars” and “Fight With Tools.” Going off on a limb, I would say Flobots have something going for them with Fight With Tools
. This is only the beginning for Flobots, who show they have the potential to produce something special.