CD Revieww: Flo Bots
“Fight With Tools”
Hip-Hop, Politics, and The Cliche Juggernaut of 2008
In “Rules for Radicals,” Saul Alinsky writes about “the difference between a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one who uses the tired old words and slogans, calls the police ‘pig’ or ‘white fascist racist’ … and has so stereotyped himself that others react by saying ‘Oh he’s one of those,’ and then promptly turn off.”
In order to talk about Flobots one needs to think about the relationship between music, politics and protest and when it comes down to it, the Flobots pillage the headlines for their songs and in the end yours truly would rather read the New York Times and get pissed off than listen to a “rhetorical radical.”
The Flobots, a seven piece hip-hop group from Denver, try pretty hard but in the end they are simply gimmicky hip-hop. It’s music for the masses that are either not open to the range rap/hip-hop has or simply don’t know about it. This could be classified under “good hip-hop” for some people, but saying that is like saying “she’s good for a girl;” it’s backhanded and ignorant. This stems from the idea that hip-hop is only about guns and hoes. While that is a part of hip-hop, to only look at a sample of an entire genre is misguided. Some of it is more than meets the ear and some isn’t. It’s analogous to popular country music that’s equally ignorant and offensive at the surface. It would be like discounting the entire country genre because of Big and Rich and forgetting about Loretta Lynn or Gillian Welch, or Whiskeytown.
But I digress, wasn’t this supposed to be a review of Flobots?
“Fight With Tools” is a mediocre hip-hop album and a sub-par protest record. Flobots ultimately create a strange soundscape and lyrically fall back on what Alinsky calls “tired slogans.” This album is about as revolutionary as a 13-year-old drawing anarchy A’s on their binder.
“We’ve been all over the globe on our government’s funds. Leavin’ man, woman and child dead bloody and numb … We need money for healthcare and public welfare, Free Mumia and Leonard Peltier, Human needs, not corporate greed, Drop the debt and legalize weed, We say ‘yes’ to grassroots organization, ‘No’ to neo-liberal globalization, Bring the troops back to the U.S.A., And shut down Guantanamo Bay.” Jonny Five rhymes almost like it was from a liberal buzz word dictionary. Its intention is to bring light to a subject that has been given so much attention already, which is commendable, but he doesn’t give any solutions or even convey their message in an inspiring manner. Do Flobots really think they can do a better job than the New York Times, The Washington Post, etc? It seems like a project that is destined to fail and it definitely does.
-Reviewd by Ben Moffat
In the summer of 2007, Tom Petty took a break off his tour to reform his old band, Mudcrutch. He wrote a good bit of new songs and even threw in some covers. The result was music that seems classically Petty, but with a slightly fresher sound. The problem with the album is its propensity to drone on as if it were one long song. Tom Petty seems to be defining his own genre, but is at risk to define it far too narrowly. The music seems far looser in a way, providing strong evidence that the Mudcrutch reunion was never intended to be the Tom Petty show. Each instrument has its own voice, but it is held together by a traditional Tom Petty style.
— Reviewed by Taylor
Download This: “Never Neverland”
Lyfe Jennings has been flying low on the hip-hop radar for some time now, and this album release does not seem to be getting the type of promotion he’ll need to change that anytime soon. It is unfortunate, because the raspy, strained vocals of this amazing R&B singer has only improved since his last album, “Phoenix.” The album tells the tale of rough times on the streets and leaving it all behind, much like Lyfe’s previous works. He shakes it up with some new collaboration work, especially with my personal favorite, Wyclef Jean, appearing on “You Think You’ve Got it Bad.” Lyfe Jennings not only has a very unique talent in writing and singing his tracks, but he also plays the guitar, piano and bass on most appearances.
— Reviewed by Taylor Kuykendall
Download This: “American Boy”
Estelle is one of the greats of modern day soul singers, and on this album she holds nothing back. She is an import from the UK, but she will certainly hit it big in the states with her new single “American Boy” featuring Kanye West. Again, Wyclef Jean makes an appearance producing some of the tracks, which appropriately come off as something from a Fugees album — Lauryn Hill style. If you dig the soulful work of John Legend, who appears on the album as well, you will really enjoy the audio form of soul that is “Shine.”
— Reviewed by Taylor
“The Conquests of Josh Ritter”
Download This: “To the Dogs or Whoever”
Josh Ritter is perhaps one of the least appreciated folk musicians of the modern day. He receives with disdain comparisons to Bob Dylan, but insists he is doing his own thing. At the risk of hell storm, I propose that on his latest album, Ritter does some of the things that Dylan was known for, and does them even better. His music is not the legendary time changing poems of Dylan, but Ritter surely can rip out one hell of a folk song. The album does seem to take a dive technically and lyrically when compared to previous Ritter albums, but it remains fairly solid nonetheless. If you are a fan of Ritter, pick up this album, but if you are interested in discovering this artist, I suggest you delve deeper into his back catalog.
— Reviewed by Taylor Kuykendall
“Waves and the Both of Us”
Download This: “Waves and the Both of Us”
Charlotte Sometimes has been performing under her stage name for years, and obviously has plenty of talent under her belt. Her music belongs to the family of female pop queens ranging from Gwen Stefani to Regina Spektor, but her music has a dark, ephemeral quality that makes it very intriguing and listenable (unlike Gwen Stefani). Her songs express and release emotion without dwelling on sadness and focusing on depression. “Waves and the Both of Us” is a solid album of female pop glory and will definitely get repeated album spins upon purchase. It is not an album for picking and choosing songs, nearly every track is solid, and the album itself is a very continuous work.
—Reviewed by Taylor Kuykendall