|Keeping the Party Alive | Posted October 17, 2011
Family Force 5 plays a style of music that has been aptly described as “party rock.” The Atlanta-based band of brothers has had a whirlwind career over the past few years, moving from playing side stages at Warped Tour to headlining major Christian festivals. Their in-your-face southern rock grit combined with a stated mission to “party for Jesus” has created a reputation that spans genre divides, winning them popularity in both Christian and mainstream markets.
Their first two albums display different sides of the band’s personality. Business Up Front, Party In the Back has a heavy rock edge, while Dance Or Die has a smoother, more dance-focused tone. On their third and highly anticipated release, aptly named III (pronounced simply “three”), they manage to mix these two together to concoct blistering, beat-heavy tunes that yet again reinvent their own genre.
The record kicks off with "Can You Feel It," a song reminiscent of their first album with its heavy guitars layered behind Soul Glow Activatur’s screamed vocals. The song is in many ways an invitation into the album, to enjoy the music. One of the more serious tracks follows with the intense "Paycheck." Family Force 5 tackles issues of unemployment and poverty in America, addressing the issue with their usual tongue in cheek lyrics (“never heard of vacation-- I think they give those away at the radio station”) combined with honest sympathy and encouragement.
Some fans may already be familiar with some of the next tracks on the album, the incurably catchy "Wobble" and the cute "You Got It," a love song ringing with an indie vibe. Both of these tracks were on Family Force 5’s earlier release, the III EP. Continuing in the vein of "You Got It" (which lead singer Soul Glow has dedicated to his wife in the past), the next track is cleverly written, Latin-influenced "Mamacita."
What follows is the throbbing "Tanktop," possibly one of the most classy dance tracks you’ll ever hear. The song could practically have been written from the stage of a club show, watching the fans filter in. Part of its strength is that it is very restrained despite the strong beat, giving it a simultaneously mellow but intense feeling. The Family Force 5 guys know when to back off on the guitars and let the beat and vocals carry a song.
"Not Alone" is the album’s CHR single, which is already climbing the charts. The song is the most strongly spiritual song on the record, showing that when Family Force 5 does choose to take themselves seriously, they can pull it off with sincerity. The track speaks to those who feel lonely or abandoned.
Family Force 5 keeps the party going until the end, moving into the previously released track "Dang Girl." The following track, "Love Gone Wrong," is one of the strongest tracks on the album. It’s impossible to take the song seriously, and equally impossible not to want to sing along. The track talks about a girl who shoplifts and picks pockets. The song mournfully declares that though she’s no good “she’s sweet to me,” so the speaker of the song can’t seem to break up with her.
The album closes with the song "Get On Outta Here," which debuted at a few summer festivals. Soul Glow has dedicated this track to “the haters.” It’s very tongue in cheek, and very likely to be stuck in your head for weeks after your first listen.
Family Force 5 is a band that has seen a lot of controversy. Many feel wary about the atmosphere they often play in and question their goal to party for Jesus. There has been a clamor for more spiritual substance in their songs, and Family Force 5 very often has to address that in their interviews.
If you look for a deep theological message on III, you are unlikely to find it. What you will find is a hopelessly happy album made by five guys who aren’t afraid to look more than a little silly in order to spread their infectious joy. Tracks like "Paycheck" and "Not Alone" show that they have a solid foundation, that they are aware of the realities of spiritual struggles, while tracks like "Can You Feel It" and "Tanktop" show that they aren’t afraid to enjoy life anyway. Family Force 5 successfully manages to shed some light in the otherwise very murky club music scene, without taking themselves too seriously along the way.
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