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September 15, 2008 | by  | in Music |
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Flobots – Fight With Tools

When listening to this album, try to banish any thoughts of Linkin Park from your mind. The Flobots’ version of hybrid rap/rock is a whole lot better executed than the former band – but there are moments, particularly in the vocals, that may evoke disturbing memories of one of the worst bands in the history of music. It’s not enough to kill the album, though, and might not even be noticeable to someone unfamiliar with the rap/rock oeuvre.

The other components of the album are of such high quality that I can easily forgive the vocalists’ transgressions. Fight With Tools manages to capture the live energy of the US six-piece band’s music, with very little electronic production and musical backing by ‘real’ instruments. The band moves convincingly between funk, rock and hip hop, while maintaining a distinctly original sound. A particularly unusual element is the acoustic cello on several, which further highlights the live aesthetic.

The flow of the rapping isn’t quite on par with the Flobots’ more radio friendly contemporaries, which – along with the live instrumentation – leads me to wonder whether this can really be called a hip hop album. Overall it’s more suggestive of a kind of hard funk, and would perhaps sound better considered as such. Then again maybe the Flobots are just showing us another side of the hip hop genre that is still relatively unexplored, and if so it’s refreshing and more than welcome in today’s stale world of commercialised hip hop.

All of the songs on the album express some intense political views, calling for and end to apathy, brutal foreign policy, racism and other US-specific social plagues. The operative word here is US-specific – I’m not sure how this album will fare outside of its home country; while I understand all the issues and sentiments covered this is really music by and for Americans.

On that note, I wonder if the Flobots box themselves too easily in to the ‘political music’ category. At times they resort to cliches, and the tone of the songs is invariably one of righteous anger. Lyrically, the Flobots break no rules – making them more easily dismissable by the audiences they presumably seek to reach.

Still, I mustn’t bitch – even if they’re preaching to the converted, Fight With Tools is a damn fine album that shows us a taste of the unexplored oceans of hip hop’s potential.

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