Family Force 5 - III
Record Label: Tooth & Nail/ III Entertainment
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Family Force 5. If anyone has been paying attention to the party-pop scene over the past three or so years, chances are the name may sound familiar. Family Force 5, consisting of vocalist Solomon Olds a.k.a Soul Glow Activatur, bassist Joshua “Fatty” Olds, drummer Jacob “Crouton” Olds, keytar player Nathan “Nadaddy” Currin and guitarist Derek “Chap Stique” Mount, have been kicking it since 2006, with their patented mix of southern rock, hip-hop and dance introduced in their debut LP Business Up Front, Party in the Back. However, it was their sophomore effort, Dance or Die, that put them on the mainstream map in 2008, catapulting them to fame with sceners 3-Oh!-3, Cobra Starship, and Cash Cash respectively. “Dance or Die” represented a genre switch to synth and drum-machine heavy, party/dance sound, leaving nearly all elements of their rock roots eradicated. Still, the album was lauded as much as the first, taking the band to new heights.
However, it seemed after Dance or Die, the band hit an extremely rough patch, starting with their abysmal remix album Dance or Die With a Vengance, an equally pitiful Christmas album, and a simply disgusting tie-in single for the miserable Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland, “Topsy-Turvy.” It seemed that the band had risen fast and fizzled out faster. But here we are, three years after Dance or Die. Is it possible for the band to regain the momentum it has lost these past few years with their latest offering? Well, the short answer is a disappointing and resounding no.
From a musicianship perspective, Family Force 5 has stayed, more or less, at the same level they have always been. Old’s raspy yelps work just fine, and Currin’s synth-work is extremely well implemented. Joshua Old’s bass lines are simplistic, but match the tone of the album and feels very much like it belongs, and Mount’s riffs are very solid, but are, in the same fashion as Dance or Die, criminally underutilized.
If trying to compare III to either of FF5’s previous main album releases, it becomes obvious it leans more towards Business Up Front… than Dance or Die; a wise choice, as the dance/party genre DoD fell into is rapidly losing the one shred of mainstream relevancy it had three years ago. However, the comparison to Business Up Front… is a stretch, as FF5 attempts to rope in several different genres into one album, and with one, perhaps two exceptions, all fall flat in their attempt. The album opener, “Can You Feel It,” comes close to channeling the old spark the band once had, however, it doesn’t come close to the band’s previous high-points such as “Love Addict,” “Replace Me,” or “Radiator.” It’s all downhill from here, hitting rock-bottom with the miserable, contrived fifth track “Mamacita,” that can only be compared to Pitbull on a bad day—and considering Pitbull’s body of work, this doesn’t bode well—and the overly simplistic and grating “Tank Top.”
The most energetic song on the album is easily “Dang Girl,” which, in the same vein of “Can You Feel It” reaches for the feel of the FF5 of the past, but merely reaches the level of “listenable” thanks to a refreshing change-up due to a decent amount of the vocals being supplied by bassist Joshua Olds. However, the track reaches a head-shakingly shameful attempt to inject some dubstep in the mix, if the half-hearted effort can be considered as such, relegating the song to more of a gimmick track in the same vein as the “Dougie” ripoff track “Wobble.”
The most successful song on the album is the extremely catchy “Love Gone Wrong.” The track takes a vastly different direction from the rest of III with a decent hook and life that is sorely missing in the rest of the album.
III can be summed up in one word: dead. With the exception of “Love Gone Wrong,” III is simply unable to attain the feeling of fun and manic energy that was plentiful in FF5’s previous outings. So many of the issues present in the album could be easily overlooked if it sounded like the Family boys had fun making it. Instead, it jumps on every bandwagon in pop-music today, trying to find something that sticks, rather than attempting something original as Business Up Front… did.
Let’s be honest. Family Force 5 is not, a “serious” band. They never have been. Their lyrics, with the exception of songs from their first album “Replace Me” and the Business Up Front… Diamond Edition exclusive “Face Down,” have always been written to be stupid fun, and the music as a whole was never meant to be a profound leap forward for music. What it was was a group of guys with a fantastic sense of humor and self-parody who wanted to share it with the world.
What went wrong, it seems, is that the band began to take themselves too seriously, and suddenly all of the cracks in their wall, with no charisma and energy to draw attention from it, have become increasingly evident. These issues have not become less glaring as time has gone on.
As a long-time fan of Family Force 5, it is disappointing to watch what was once such an enjoyable and energetic beast relegate itself to a trend-follower. FF5’s audio identity, consequently, is all but gone. This has, unfortunately, resulted in the band losing what made them so enjoyable to listen to back when they first began: fun.
Huge step down for these guys. Then again, that's what I said about Dance or Die in 2008.... hmmm. It goes to show how great their debut was I suppose. I know there was a lot of turmoil in the studio and during the release date scheduling. That doesn't bode well. The only way FF5 can climb back into our hearts is by making another record that only they can make, such as Business Up Front, Party in the Back. Back when the first singles came out for this album, I had a gut-wrenching feeling, and it never left.