By: Greg Gargiulo
Unite now or unite never. Among the multitude of inciting messages transmitted throughout Flobots' Fight With Tools (Universal Republic), this singular call to action and unification rings most clearly above the rest. On their sophomore release, the politically charged sextet doesn't settle with simply making enemies of corrupt politicians and a severely flawed governmental paradigm but takes it a step further to declare inaction, laziness and passivity foes of an almost-equal degree. Innovatively applying their rapping style of firebrand lyrics to melodies that dwell more in the realms of alternative rock, punk, funk and classical, all accentuated by intermittent brass. The Flobots' sound grabs ears immediately, like vital news flashes taking control of every functioning media outlet. After initially seizing your attention, few moments are spared for anything other than an unloading of their collective viewpoints and potential solutions, both of which seem inner-surpluses eager to compensate for external deficits.
Though Fight was released more than a year ago, with the current tumultuous state of affairs we suffer from and the inevitable transitional period that awaits, the LP could actually be more suited for today's time than any other. The vocal battalion of Jonny 5, Brer Rabbit and Andy "ROK" Guerrero (who also handles guitar duties) attacks head-on the pertinent issues they feel should no longer hide in the shadows. Instead of allowing them to remain un-addressed, with their lyrical tenacity - broadly metaphorical at times but predominantly literal and blunt - they highlight the holes and missteps that plague our country and the world abroad (i.e. war, poverty, hunger, corruption, racism, wrongful imprisonment, equal rights, Katrina, 9/11, etc.) Rage Against the Machine-like in their somewhat-rebellious intentions, Flobots are Jurassic 5-meets-The Clash-gone-classical in their delivery, and their utilization of Mackenzie Roberts' viola & backup vocals stacks additional layers of emotion to frustration-fueled verses of disapproval and the necessity of mobilization.
The strings come through especially strong on "Stand Up," where they weep for injustices past and present, and at the vertex of "Fight With Tools," where they assist in making a direct proclamation to prepare yourself to face forthcoming obstacles and adversity. "Same Thing" makes a clear delineation between ill-advised governmental decisions and the people's lack of say in such matters, while "Rise" is straight anthemic to the bone, focused on our perilous world, consumed by strife and struggle, that can only be rectified by waking up, getting in the know and combining the forces of wit, insight and idea.
The eclectic nature of the ‘Bots could take some time to adjust to, particularly if one isn't exactly aware of what they're all about. But after overcoming the first wave of uncertainty and at least partially comprehending their essence, they should "click" for most. There's no subtlety or gray area in their beliefs, little deviation from politically based subject matter ("Combat" and "The Rhythm Method (Move!)" are the closest thing to exceptions), and they certainly have a specific agenda that doesn't leave any room for undecideds. And damn it if after a few listens and you don't feel compelled to do something.
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