A few years ago, Family Force 5 took a big hit when they lost their lead singer Soul Glow Activatur. The band managed to regroup, signed to Word Records, and put out a solid album with Time Stands Still. Now, a few years later, the band is dealing with more issues between their public disagreement with their label on pushing back their latest record, Audiotorium, and losing all but two of their band members. Within this messy context we are presented with the FF5 EP (not to be confused with the Family Force 5 EP from 2005), and it is fairly indicative of the band's current status of being less than their best self.
This new EP, which features five songs from Audiotorium, is more sonically cohesive than Time Stands Still, and it features a mix of pop, dance, and funk. Their signature crunk style is completely absent, so do not approach listening to this EP hoping to hear some crunk rock. The songs are catchy and fun, with opening track "Out Of This World" boasting an especially infectious hook. The deep, synthesized beat in the chorus highlights the band's ability to get your foot tapping, and maybe even break-dancing on cardboard. Similarly danceable tracks, "Sweatband" and "Tiger Night," offer a slew of electronic instrumentation and drums that are enjoyable to listen to, but are otherwise unmemorable. One unique quality about "Tiger Night" is Mr. Talkbox's high-pitched robotic vocals that you may recognize from some TobyMac songs. "Just As I Am" and "Fire on the Highway" are decidedly less dance-ready, with the former being the closest thing to a CCM song, though it's a bit more retro than the widely embraced tracks "Show Love" and "Let It Be Love" from Time Stands Still.
Unfortunately, the positive aspects of the record are overshadowed by its negative qualities. The lyrics are the biggest issue here, as they are generally cheesy ("Tiger Night"), commonplace ("Out Of This World," "Just As I Am"), or just plain senseless ("Sweatband"). They live up to their mantra of writing positive party lyrics, but the lack of substance, which is usually offset by their ridiculousness and clever one-liners, is more noticeable this time around. With lyrics like "turn sweat into gold" or "leave it all behind / it's a tiger night," it's over-the-top without being funny. On the bright side, "Just As I Am" is about God's love accepting us as we are, and though it's a familiar message, it's a welcome break from the unsubstantial feel-good lyrics.
It's unclear when (or if) Audiotorium will be released (although the band said publicly this week that it should release "this summer"), but perhaps the remaining six tracks will provide something more meaningful to help balance these tracks out. Thankfully, these five tracks are absent of the slightly suggestive undertones of their other weaker album, III. Despite the promise "it's about to get dangerous" in "Tiger Night," this is a relatively safe release for FF5. Because of the de-clawed nature of this EP and the fact the band is currently only offering this through their website as a physical product, this EP will likely stay below the radar at least until the full album releases.
- Review date: 1/17/18, written by Christopher Smith of Jesusfreakhideout.com