Skip to main content

100 Albums: "Our Newest Album Ever!" by Five Iron Frenzy

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Five Iron Frenzy
Title: Our Newest Album Ever!
Released: 1997
Genre: Christian ska-punk

In the mid-to-late 90s, ska became briefly relevant, mostly in the underground and college scene. A few ska bands broke into the mainstream and then disappeared like Reel Big Fish or The Mighty Mighty BossTones, but the most notable remnant of that movement was some ska-adjacent acts like No Doubt, Madness, and Sublime. As I mentioned in the my Christian rock supplemental and the entry for Pspazz, the 90s saw a huge emergent Christian rock movement that generated some actually-pretty-incredible music. Part of this included a ska scene, with a number of bands gaining traction like The O.C. Supertones, Insyderz, and--my personal favorite--Five Iron Frenzy. FIF formed in Denver as a side project by members of a thrash metal band called Exhumator who realized they didn't actually like thrash metal all that much. The side project gained members and morphed into a ska band, played an impromptu set at the Cornerstone Music Festival, and soon were signed to Five Minute Walk records. They even opened for The Mighty Mighty BossTones and Less Than Jake in the local Denver scene before gaining a national following. Their debut album came out in 1996, and the follow-up Our Newest Album Ever! was released a year later.

There's a weird dividing line for me with Christian music, which I've talked about before. Most of these albums are hard to listen to, despite being formative for me, and it really comes down to how much Christianity is part of the message versus how much it's a part of the perspective. FIF straddles that line. They're message-forward, but they have a wide variety of messages, and they have an earnestness that sometimes feels naive but that also keeps them from ever feeling cynical. In addition to singing about Jesus, they go on anti-capitalist rants (Did you know there was a Christian youth anti-capitalism movement in the late-90s/early-00s? Christian-bleeding-heart-liberals is a thing!), lament the slaughter of Native Americans by the United States in Banner Year (the best song on this album, for my money), and they have multiple songs on this album about being a touring band and how hard that lifestyle is. Superpowers (embedded above) digs into some of that with some hilarious lyrics like "We've been given superpowers, ask about our rock and roll" or "Sometimes we have a deadline for writing our songs, five minutes left to write this one, la la-la la-la la-la-la."

They're also unapologetically silly, and that may be why I still have so much affection for them. Where Is Micah? is a song about how the guitarist keeps wandering off. Blue Comb '78 tells the story of the singer's sister throwing his brand new comb out the window when he was five and how still misses it. Oh Canada is an ode to Canada that opens with "Welcome to Canada, it's the Maple Leaf State!" And underscoring all of this is just some really great songwriting. Strong hooks, great musicianship, and some really creative arrangements. Most of the music was composed by bassist Scott Kerr, who left the band in 1998 after losing his faith (it happens, I've been there, man) and there's a noticeable drop in quality that follows shortly.

Further Listening: They've got a fairly extensive oeuvre, but their best albums are their first four. Upbeats And Beatdowns is unpolished but still pretty good. After ONAE! they released the Quantity Is Job 1 EP that has some great tunes like One Girl Army, Get Your Riot Gear, a fantastic cover of ELO's Sweet Talkin' Woman, and perhaps the greatest song ever written: The Untimely Death Of Brad. All The Hype is pretty solid as well. The band went on hiatus in 2003 and then re-formed with Kerr in 2011 and are still touring, but I haven't heard any of their newer material.


Popular posts from this blog

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it. I get it now. I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat bet

100 Album: "Game Of Thrones Season 3 Soundtrack" by Ramin Djawadi

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the  explainer  or view  the master list . Artist:  Ramin Djawadi Title:   Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Soundtrack Released:  2013 Genre:  DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh, duh-duh-DAH duh He's not as big a name as Hans Zimmer or John Williams or the various Newmans out there, but Ramin Djawadi is easily the most interesting composer working in television right now (with due respect to Bear McCreary). Soundtracks, especially television soundtracks because they're produced so quickly, have a tendency to serve more as a wall of atmosphere than anything else. But Djawadi's work here and on Westworld  has generated some amazing musical themes. There's a strong undercurrent of leitmotif informing the way the music flows together and the themes those motifs are built around are damned  catchy--which you know if you got the joke in the genre description above. While all of the soundtracks for GoT  are very listenable, this is m

100 Albums: "Fashion Nugget" by Cake

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the  explainer  or view  the master list . Artist:  Cake Title:   Fashion Nugget Released:  1996 Genre:  lo-fi indie alt-rock There was a summer when I was in college that I spent every spare minute playing Super Bomber Man  on the SNES and listening to Cake's Fashion Nugget  (and one other album that I will get to shortly). Cake broke in the late era of grunge with The Distance , a--ahem--driving song about a man racing to get back to his love, or something like that. The metaphor was unclear, but the song was catchy as hell. They followed it up with a cover of I Will Survive  that was much more indicative of Cake's sound: lo-fi vintage guitar, a lead trumpet, John McCrea's deadpan just-off-rhythm singing and sarcastic lyrics, and Victor Damiani's frenetic bass-playing. Fashion Nugget  was independently produced under the ethos of "if you can't make it sound clean, make it sound dirty in an interesti