Fight With Tools Review
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I got an unusual introduction to Flobots’ new album, Fight With Tools: a critic friend handed the disc to me and said, “I never want to see this CD again.” Now, despite the fact that I tend to agree with this critic friend, his introduction made Fight With Tools feel less like an album to check out and more like a challenge. Surely, I thought to myself, it can’t be that bad. And I became determined to totally love it—just because.

Having already heard the album’s excruciatingly catchy first track, “Handlebars,” I knew it could be hit-or-miss. The half-sung, half-spoken vocals are gravelly, and the lyrics are repetitive (to the point that I dread hearing the song on the radio, knowing that I’ll be chanting “I can ride my bike with no handlebars / No handlebars / No handlebars” for the rest of the day). It’s a song that, upon hearing it, either you’ll love it or it’ll drive you completely crazy. Maybe even both.

But “Handlebars” isn’t a whole lot like the rest of the album. At first, I dug the sound; the beats, along with the mix of rap, song, and spoken word feels a bit like Eminem mixed with Gorillaz, with some horns borrowed from Cake. And, if only for a while, I felt like a rebel—enjoying some kind of crazy music that my friend avoided like the plague. Unfortunately, that smug feeling of rebellion didn’t last long. I found that the longer I listened, the more everything just melted together. Though the tracks don’t all sound the same, they all just feel the same—and, after a while, it feels monotonous (thanks, in part, to the gravelly, sometimes monotone vocals).

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Fight With Tools, however, is its incessant preachiness. Now, I have no problem with musicians speaking their minds. But when they pound the message into their listeners’ heads—and that message is pretty much the same thing, over and over and over again (You don’t like the war. I get it.)—it takes away from the music. And that leads me back to the beginning of this vicious circle—because there’s not really much to take away. While some highly political bands have been wonderfully successful (Rage Against the Machine, for instance), they were successful because they took their political lyrics and gave them a great sound. But that’s not really the case with Flobots. While the sound does have some great moments, the preachiness makes the album feel too heavy—and the frequently monotone sound makes it feel rather bland. And that, my friends, is a bad combination.

So as much as I’d love to be a rebel and tell you how much I loved this album, I have to agree with my friend on this one. And if I never see the CD (or hear the music) again, I can’t say that I’ll be all too disappointed.

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