Review Summary: Sometimes as a band, you get lucky on your first try, creating material that has been seen before, but is still well liked. Other times, you come into the scene and breathe fresh air upon what is becoming repetitive mainstream music. Flobots is the latter
Way back in April 2008, there was a single released over the radio airwaves. This single, simply known as "Handlebars", sky rocketed up the Modern Rock charts till it hit it's peak at 3. Now, normally, if a band is new to the scene and they want to be recognized by the mass media, they release something that is well liked by just about anyone. Sadly, that normally comes with the consequences of lyrics ranging anywhere from horrendous-to-mediocre, having a repetitive chorus, and simple instrumentals. Bring on "Handlebars", which uses sampling, electric bass, trumpet and electric guitar behind the dry rapping of Johnny-5. Lyrically, to the simpleminded person, the song tells of a man who just raps about what he can do. If you look deeper, the MC tells of the plethora of things that a single person can do, using the idea of the American Dream. In fact, Johnny-5 stated in an interview that its meaning is "that we have such incredible potential as human beings to be destructive or creative.". Not your average rock single. So lets divulge into the rest of the album known as Fight With Tools.
Flobots is a 7-piece band, two MC's; Johnny-5 and Brer Rabbit, violist Mackenzie Gault, Bassist Jesse Walker, guitarist Andy Guerrero, trumpeter Joe Ferrone, and drummer Kenny Ortiz. Not your normal lead vocalist, drummer, bass and lead guitar band. This is very much so a rap oriented album with J-5 and Rabbit exchanging mic roles throughout much of the songs, fueled with political lyrics. The album intro, "There Is A War Going On For Your Mind", features a man talking throughout its entirety about, well, a war going on for your mind, ending with J-5 simply stating, "We are the insurgents.". The next 5 songs are the backbone of the album, songs that will no doubt end up on your I-Pod playlist. "Mayday!!" which is a song that delicately describes the wrongs of everything in the world today, and informing us to rise up against it. A very good song both lyrically and musically. "Same Thing" is along the same lines of "Mayday!!" except this is clearly directed to the leaders of the United States, "We've been all over the globe on our government's funds, leaving man, woman, and child dead bloody and numb." Johnny-5 spits during the chorus. The song has a very funky beat by the bassist, along with a trumpet sounding every now and then. "Stand Up" is the albums shining star. Behind J-5's emotionally felt voice, it tells where Flobots stand in society and what "we the people" need and want. If you are looking for a single song that describes this album look no further than "Stand Up". The albums title song, informs us of the need to help lead the uprising against current society, no matter what the consequence, we have to change what has become the established order. And the final of the Fab-5 songs is the single "Handlebars", described in the beginning.
Tracks 7-12, while not being bad in any sort, do not seem to measure up to the greatness of the first 6 tracks. "Never Had It" brings in a female vocalist during the chorus, to keeps things nicely mixed, as well as a killer guitar solo(For the genre of music this is) that begins 3/4's of the way through the song and last till the end. "Combat" is by every means a filler track, but the goofyness of the whole song and the nice retro beat keeps it quite entertaining, as well as the flow keeps the album moving smoothly. “The Rhythm Method(Move!)” continues along the same path of “Combat” with a somewhat goofyness in the song, having both MC’s alternate on the mic with a silly rapping style. “Anne Braden” gets back on the track of a more serious tone, telling the story of a “southern woman” raised with rascim surrounding her, and her fight against Linchers. “We Are Winning” has a spoken chorus by an elderly woman informing us about how the insurgeny is winning against the old world. And lastly, the second single off the album, “Rise”, which in my opinion is the worst song on the album. J-5 seems very shallow in his attempt to put emotion into the song and the repetitive chorus of “Rise together, we, rise together, we rise.” gets really annoying. This song is the sound of a band attempting to get too mainstream in they’re writing as well as they’re structuring of the song. Again, it’s not bad, just after listening to the album as a whole you expect greater things from the ending track.
Sometimes as a band, you get lucky on your first try, creating material that has been seen before, but is still well liked. Other times, you come into the scene and breathe fresh air upon what is becoming repetitive mainstream music. Flobots is the latter. They create an atmosphere not heard almost anywhere else in music of late, and especially not in mainstream rock. While they do have they're faults, such as the two MCs are very monotonous and they have the same theme throughout the album, they are minor faults. Also, do you ever hear people complain about Rise Against not changing the theme they sing about every single album? Or do you hear people say RATM was terrible because Zach De La Rocha never varied the way he raps? No. While these are troubles Flobots has, they do not bring down the greatness in which they achieve on Fight With Tools.