Most Christians who were teenagers in the 1990s know Five Iron Frenzy. They are a Christian ska-punk band that rode the third-wave global resurgence of ska. Five Iron Frenzy found acceptance in Christian and non-Christian circles with their energy and humor. As the popularity of ska faded into the new millennium, Five Iron Frenzy broke up to allow members to pursue other interests. When the band contemplated reuniting with an album in 2013, a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project exploded. Eight years later, Five Iron Frenzy has released another fan-funded album. Until This Shakes Apart gives old fans a touch of nostalgia and a maturing perspective on Jesus and justice.
One challenge Five Iron Frenzy faced early in their career was how to authentically communicate to a Christian music market that valued safe spiritual lyrics. Several members of the band wrestled with their faith, some concluding they no longer were believers. Their breakup in the 2000s helped create time and space for the band to grow, and now they operate with members offering diverse faith perspectives. Main lyricist Reese Roper speaks of faith with nuance, recognizing that he is speaking on behalf of a band whose members have their differences. Yet as he explores issues of greed, injustice, evangelicalism, and civil disobedience, all of which are eerily relevant in 2021, Reese finds common ground.
Along with these more nuanced lyrics comes a refined musical sound. The band recognizes their fans' musical tastes have expanded. We hear development 45 seconds into the album on the track “In through the Out Door'' when Reese Roper gives a nod to Gil Scott Heron when he sings, “This evolution will not be televised.” “Auld Lanxiety” tells us “the workers are going home” much in the same way Weezer told us almost 30 years ago. The bridge of “While Supplies Last'' borrows from Rage Against the Machine’s playbook for creating urgency and energy. These references to the greater canon of popular music engages the listener. Rather than going it alone, Five Iron Frenzy finds themselves among a community of artists calling for change.
Five Iron Frenzy knows they will not gain many new fans with their new album Until This All Shakes Apart. And that’s OK because they want to speak to their old fans. They don’t simply offer old classics for nostalgia’s sake. Five Iron Frenzy grows alongside their fans and finds new ways to encourage each listener to act more justly. After only a few listens, fans will quickly realize that quality is job No. 1 for the new Five Iron Frenzy. (Independent)
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