Flobots
The Circle in the Square


2.0
poor

Review

by Mike Denison USER (13 Reviews)
September 6th, 2012 | 19 replies | 3,444 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Round peg in a square hole.

5 of 5 thought this review was well written

Everyone loves revolution. Everyone's gotten mad at something in society and wanted to change it. Everyone's romanticized their fight against Societal Evil X. But for most of us, our grand revolutions never go beyond the "vague concept" stage. Enter Flobots, whose 2007 album Fight With Tools struck a chord in many a would-be revolter, despite strong critical opposition. They told us that "There Is a War Going On for Your Mind," but "We Are Winning," that all we had to do was "Stand Up" and "Rise." Wrapping up such hopeful sentiments in an easily palatable hip-hop/rock mixture with some surprisingly tight instrumental work and huge choruses, it's no surprise that "Handlebars" single-handedly dominated radios everywhere for months, and that the band earned a cult following.

Funny, then, how the band that captivated millions by calling for a revolution has lost all will to revolt.

MCs Jonny5 and Brer Rabbit's message was heavy-handed throughout Fight With Tools and its follow-up, Survival Story, but left-wing calls to action are nothing new in the rap-rock forum. They made their formula work almost by passion alone. The Circle In The Square, however, is without focus or fire. It's bland and misguided, devoid of the sincerity that made a hokey chorus of "Together we rise" a genuine anthem. There is no urgency, no call to arms...only a celebration of being different than a nebulous "them," if anything. Plenty of songs pass by with no clear meaning at all.

The title cut epitomizes this celebration, though it actually succeeds in creating a decent song in the meantime. The hook is an earworm despite its cheese, Mackenzie Gault's viola work gives the verses an energy boost, and Jonny5's cries of "El pueblo, unido, jama sera vencido" ("The people, united, will never be defeated") hearken at least vaguely to the old days. But things quickly dissolve into a mushy sea of Facebook quote page platitudes ("If the sun will rise even one more time, so will I, so will I" in "Run (Run Run Run)," "As for me, I'm gonna be free, I'm gonna be free from all of this history" in the snoozefest "Gonna Be Free"). Songs titles like "Occupyearth" and "Stop the Apocalypse" would hint at some sort of anthem, but they both dance around revolutionary ideals without embracing any.

One would hope that the band's underrated rhythm section would rise to the occasion as the MC's flounder, but alas, they are inconsistent at best. "Gonna Be Free"'s already terrible chorus is made worse by a frustratingly elementary groove. "The Rose and The Thistle" never deviates from its simplistic drum beat, and Gault's vocal performance seems to prevent her normally solid viola work from shining. Most of the album, though, simply passes as musically forgettable, leaving Jonny5 to render a mediocre song terrible with a line like "We stand for the we like Nintendo tennis." Only once do the Flobots strike gold, and that is with "Wrestling Israel," a dramatic, musically cliché song that brings to mind the terrible "Good Soldier" but redeems it with some genuinely poignant religious musings.

This is far from enough to redeem the album, though. Survival Story was a disappointment in its own right; The Circle In The Square seems to establish Fight With Tools as a fluke. Nothing here comes close to stirring any sort of revolutionary fervor, even a vague one. "Stop the Apocalypse" was the album's original name, and changing said name only revealed the band's sudden aversion to actually crafting an anthemic album for a generation that needs one. What's left is a group of talented musicians without a solid voice, a pair of MCs losing their chemistry, and a half-hearted album in a tired genre.



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user ratings (25)
Chart.
2.6
average
other reviews of this album
greencorn5 (3)
It's the F-L-O-B-O-T-S, what did you expect?...


Comments:Add a Comment 
ProjectFreak
September 5th 2012



1155 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

First review on sputnik, feedback please!

Summary kind of wrote itself.

ProjectFreak
September 5th 2012



1155 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Also, why does the Share sidebar look so glitchy?

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 6th 2012



4339 Comments


Mike D come and rock the sure shot!


SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
September 6th 2012



4339 Comments


Review is pretty good for a first, especially in the second half. Have a POS.
Keep them coming.

Lenix
September 6th 2012



793 Comments


Yeah, I heard bits of this and they weren't good.

ProjectFreak
September 6th 2012



1155 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

thanks paperback!

greencorn5
September 6th 2012



168 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Your review is fine, I just don't agree with what you say. But the writing is good, good job. We are all entitled to our opinions even if I don't see eye to eye on this review.

ProjectFreak
September 6th 2012



1155 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I will never ask anyone to agree with me, greencorn. Thanks for reading!

kingsoby1
Emeritus
September 6th 2012



4830 Comments


hate these guys

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins®

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
September 6th 2012



9489 Comments


Sweet review, man.

Digging: Koan Sound - Dynasty

ProjectFreak
September 6th 2012



1155 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

thanks omaha! wrote a lot for some other sites, and i kind of missed writing reviews for a while. gotta do it or i just get restless.

Pequenopolis
September 9th 2012



37 Comments


the only thing about this album i feel genuinely had no effort put into is the artwork. it reminds me of something a band puts together for their first ep when they don't have enough money to pay for anything worthwhile. the artwork is no more than what the album name already says, and i expect a band like this to have something more visually stimulating on their artwork that is an expansion upon the title - not a re-iteration of it.

this is reflected across the album itself, it is an average consolidation of what they did in survival story, thus i agree with aspects of your review. i actually, however, do enjoy this album nonetheless; i'd give it about a 3. brilliant review though, please keep writing! pos'd.

i think flobots should have come to the party as the square in the circle instead - the circle fits comfortably into the square tidily without much of a stir, whereas a square doesn't fit into a circle and requires a lot more effort and focus. being the circle, and not the square, seems to me the easier option.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
September 9th 2012



9489 Comments


The artwork is so unbelievably terrible that I don't even feel the need to explain why.

Lenix
September 9th 2012



793 Comments


hahaha

ProjectFreak
September 9th 2012



1155 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

but more things rhyme with square, such as "air," hence the chorus.

it's also becoming kind of apparent that the flobots don't want to really make great music. they just want to be left-wing and loud, and that qualifies as "innovative" to a certain demographic.

also, food for thought: would this band be better without jonny5? i'd say so.

mrgeppetto
September 9th 2012



13 Comments


I live around Denver, and hear Jonny5 crop up in left wing media circles from time to time. I always
wished flobots wouldn't suck, because he can be a prolific messenger at times, and parts of fight
with tools were really good (despite cheese), in a guilty pleasure sort of way. But the reality is
they do suck, keep getting worse, and yes it's because of him. He admits to coming at the music
scene as a vessel or outlet for an agenda, rather than art first.

The moments from FWT that seemed to strike a cord were thanks to the rest of the band bringing some
real talent and passion to the words. At the end of the Bush era that quasi-revolutionary feeling
was everywhere and they captured it. In 2012 though, it just sounds like tired old platitudes, and
the chemistry is done. Old fans of the message are still pissed off about the state of society, and
don't want to hear generalities about fighting the good fight any more. Fans of the old music just
want J5 to STFU. I'd be interested to see what they'd do in a different direction, and honestly dude
just needs to stick to organizing and politics. All that said, I still may listen to this out of
curiosity, but I'm sure you nailed it. Really great review by the way, thanks for the read!

ProjectFreak
September 9th 2012



1155 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

"The moments from FWT that seemed to strike a cord were thanks to the rest of the band bringing some real talent and passion to the words. At the end of the Bush era that quasi-revolutionary feeling was everywhere and they captured it. In 2012 though, it just sounds like tired old platitudes, and the chemistry is done. "

^ THIS BASICALLY. though there was some rather hilarious YouTube rage when I suggested that Jonny5 needed to leave the group.

also thank you!

breakingthefragile
November 14th 2012



2935 Comments


So is this album the aftermath of when the circle takes the square?

ProjectFreak
November 14th 2012



1155 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

probably less interesting than that actually



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