In 2005, new Gotee Records act Family Force 5 captured the attention of many unsuspecting onlookers with a live performance that was like no other. With the 2006 release of their debut, and the inevitable re-release a year later, FF5 has established themselves as a crunk rock party band that's heavy on the fun, but light on the spiritual content. The Diamond Edition of their album Business Up Front, Party In The Back included three new tracks - two of which were much more spiritually relevant, displaying a little more mature songwriting, a somewhat edgier sound, and lyrical themes about humility before God ("Facedown") and our security in salvation ("Never Let Me Go"). 2008 dawns a new chapter in the Family Force 5 saga, and the band lets the fans wait no longer by releasing a 3-song teaser EP, Dance Or Die.
From the opening synth chimes of the title track, it's evident this isn't quite the Family Force 5 fans have come to know and adore. While the chunky guitar and synthesizers throughout the three songs are unmistakably signature to FF5, it's the greater 70's and 80's musical influences in Dance Or Die that are likely to surprise more than a handful of listeners. From the new band imagery to the cover art of the EP, to Crouton's embellished falsetto vocals, the Family seem newly devoted to the sounds of a couple decades ago, but it includes enough of what it is about them people have come to love to keep it fun, entertaining, and infectious. "Fever" is the new "Love Addict," and while the band has said it's "about catching a fever from the Holy Spirit and turning up the heat in your life while spreading it to others," it sounds more like it's about getting the itch for dancing and needing to party.
In fact, one of Dance Or Die's strengths is also a weakness. The three tracks hold true to the theme of dancing, seldom deviating from this, but it also means there seems to be very little lyrical substance here (at least nothing all too obvious). "Dance Or Die" is about surviving a dance competition (and apparently fighting robots) while "Fever" sounds more like it's about dance fever than anything spiritual, and finally "Wake The Dead" offers imagery reminiscent of Jackson's "Thriller," talking about making the dead roll in their graves and rise from the ground, while the band is actually referring to the widespread complacency of music, politics, and spiritual matters. Where the new tracks from the Diamond Edition eluded to some more clearly deep material from the guys in the future, this EP suggests a much different approach.
With a sophomore project arriving in the coming months, the band's Christian listeners can give the guys the benefit of the doubt that there will be more obvious depth to their songs than just encouraging us to dance until we drop on the nightclub floor. And while the lyrics are rather innocuous, they still serve as a fine alternative to the often vulgar and promiscuous alternatives the mainstream dance music provides. For the Family Force 5 diehards, it shouldn't take more than a few listens to begin embracing this new direction, while those who didn't take kindly to the crunk packaging before may enjoy this more electronic, synth-heavy styling. Musically, Dance Or Die does not disappoint and is here just in time for the summer heat. There's plenty of goodness here to get the fans excited for the new, highly anticipated full-length helping to be served up later this year.- Reviewed: 6/1/08, by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Gotee Records
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