Back in 1996 the music scene was heavy with the sounds of ska, a genre with a short life span that inspired hundreds of groups to enlist in its jazz/rock sound. In the few years that followed, many of those bands died (or changed to another sound to remain in business). In the Christian realm, we had a trilogy of ska heavy hitters; the Supertones of Orange County California, the Insyderz of Detroit, and the punk, ska, hardcore of Colorado known as Five Iron Frenzy.
Their first album is a memorable blast of catchy tunes and even more catchy lyrics. The first track "Old West" delivers a ska heavy sound with words that reflect the dynamic brilliance of FIF's lead vocalist and main song writer, Reese Roper. The sarcastically written song tells of an early American tragedy of the treatment of Native Americans in what some cowboys and the like believed was "Manifest Destiny." The second track, "Where Zero Meets Fifteen," moves up to modern day times and the feeling of hopelessness at seeing the world suffer and wanting to do more to help.
"Arnold and Willis and Mr. Drummond" appears a few songs away, a first in a long line of purely silly songs, this one detailing the plot of the television series "Different Strokes." A few good songs later, "Beautiful America" arrives, which showcases the band's early musical talent. Another in the silly line, an early fan favorite entitled "Combat Chuck," follows. The song was based on a real guy who appears briefly at the beginning, then again in the hidden track. Some of the memorable lyrics from this are: "There's some kids there in some trouble, need a Pepsi on the double. Then he shouts, not so quiet, 'Would you like regular or diet?'"
Two songs later is a cover of Amy Grant's "Every where I go" performed at about one hundred times the speed of the original. The album would finish with "Third World Think Tank" but before is the highlight of the disc, "A flowery song." It was their first in a line of thoughtful and unique praise songs.
Having seen the rest of the eight and a half years of Five Iron Frenzy's stellar career, I can say this is probably the least of their albums. That, however, is by no means a put-down. It is not Upbeats and Beatdowns' fault that the FIF staff continued to grow more talented as time went by. They are one of the few groups who I can say each record was a substantial improvement on the one previous.
Although they exist no more, they will always be remembered. Upbeats and Beatdowns is a proud part of their history and will continue to entertain many years into the future.JFH Reader Review: Review date: 4/22/04, written by Jason L. Fancher for Jesusfreakhideout.com
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