Fight with Tools by Flobots
Ready for something a little different?
Instead of going track by track, I'm going to review this one as a single entity. In a word: revolutionary. In every sense, this album is both musically and politically charged to the brim.
Flobots are an alternative rock/hip hop outfit from Denver with a really refreshing sound that fans of both underground hip hop and indie alternative will (and probably have) enjoyed. The group is made up of five members who make conform to the stock rock outfit (vocals, guitar, bass, drums) with the addition of viola and on this album, trumpet.
From the get-go, it's obvious that this group is ripe with talent. From KennO's Questlove-esque beats (played on a real kit!), to the funky bass lines via Jesse Walker, to the alt viola lines by Mackenzie Gault, to the articulate and aggressive flows of Jonny 5 and Brer Rabbit, all the members of this group contribute in every song. The sound is very organic, but never tired. It's really great to hear a hip hop outfit using real instruments without a flood of sampling and studio polish on every track. If you want specifics, check out "Same Thing," "Fight with Tools," and "The Rhythm Method (Move!)." - PS. Don't be thrown off by the odd time signatures. Yeah, they do that too.
You probably remember the taunting chorus from their single "Handlebars" that got serious radio play back in '08. Love that song. From a musical standpoint, it's basically one giant crescendo, beginning with pizz. viola and bass, then to a rim-knock-infused breakbeat, and every subsequent chorus adding either instruments, volume, or both! Now to my favorite part of the song: the lyrics.
This song is an excellent cut from the disc because it shows how intelligent and crafty the writing is from the hip hop side of things. From the opening, 'I can ride my bike with no handlebars,' the listener is primed to think of a little kid accomplishing something most of us would consider mundane at best. The following verse to me, paints a picture of said child maturing by illustrating the growing weight of his accomplishments:
I can take apart the remote control
And I can almost put it back together
I can tie a knot in a cherry stem
I can tell you about Leif Ericson
I know all the words to "De Colores"
And "I'm proud to be an American"
Me and my friend saw a platypus
Me and my friend made a comic book
Each new verse (and chorus) are presented this way, displaying the accomplishments of a single individual from youth to adulthood:
I can design an engine sixty four
Miles to a gallon of gasoline
I can make new antibiotics
I can make computers survive aquatic conditions
I know how to run a business
I can make you wanna buy a product
Movers shakers and producers
Me and my friends understand the future
I see the strings that control the systems
I can do anything with no assistance
So at first listen this may be an optimistic anthem to show the power of one; the power of a single person in today's post-modern world where hard work and intelligence make just about anything do-able. However, upon extra listenings the final lines may change the listener's perspective:
I can do anything with no permission
I have it all under my command
Because I can guide a missile by satellite
By satellite (2x)
And I can hit a target through a telescope
Through a telescope (2x)
And I can end the planet in a holocaust
In a holocaust (5x)
So maybe instead of innocence, this track is a tale of absolute power corrupting absolutely? Scary stuff that certainly is introspective to say the least. I'll tell you that this level of lyricism can be expected on every track on this album. These guys aren't just trying to get the crowd rockin' - they want 'em thinkin' too.
To conclude, this debut from Flobots is killer up and down. The instrumental talent - excellent, lyricism - thought-provoking, and overall sound - fresh. Flobots have since released two full-length albums that are sure to please fans of their first.