The Top 5 Righteous Indignation Moments in Five Iron Frenzy Songs
Five Iron Frenzy is one of the most important Christian rock bands of all time. I've written at length elsewhere about why this is true, but if you're not convinced, I offer this shameless listicle to try to at least convince you that their prophetic rage was/is unprecedented and awesome.
In honor of Five Iron Frenzy's upcoming reunion album release and recently announced shows in Portland and Seattle (well, I say in honor of that, but to be honest, I haven't really stopped listening to this band for any considerable period of time since 1995, which I am not ashamed to admit), here are the "top 5" (aka 5 off the top of my head) of their moments of righteous hardcore unbridled left-wing commie pinko indignation.
5. The West Side Story bit from "Beautiful America"
Remember: this record was only available at a Christian bookstore. Your parents would drive you there and they would buy Focus on the Family books and Precious Moments figurines. They would also buy you this CD because it was, as far as they knew, wholesome Christian family-friendly edutainment(TM), but also "cool." You begrudgingly accepted that this was the kind of music you were going to have to listen to. It might be all Jesusy, but at least it would be loud and "cool."
You put it on -- and the first song was about your complicity in genocide. The second one was about giving all your money to homeless people. The fourth one was about why you shouldn't sing the national anthem or say the pledge of allegiance.
Many an evangelical teenage mind was permanently blown by this record (mine included), and by the time they got to "Beautiful America," which cheerfully compares the USA to Gomorrah, we were pretty much on board. The final section of this track uses the "I want to be in America" song from West Side Story to great effect, sung as it is by a chorus of snot-nosed, screw-you, punk rock voices. The song devolves into celebratory anarchism as the band dances on the bones of the American dream.
4. Calling out Christian bands in "Blue Mix"
Most bands don't seem to have the courage to call out the Christian music industry for its backstabbing, profit-driven crapulence until they've quit the business, but FIF didn't seem overly concerned about record sales (and their records were frequently pulled from the shelves of Christian stores after people realized what they were singing about). They address this issue elsewhere ("451," and to some extent, "Handbook for the Sellout"), but "Blue Mix" is their most direct takedown of CCM. There's something satisfying about the directness of Reese Roper's critique in lines like "under the guise of Jesus Christ/they lie" and "You are responsible to watch what you buy/ these bands that you love pull the wool over your eyes." The song ends with a warning to keep your eyes open for any band who tries to deceive you to make money -- including FIF themselves ("watch them/watch us").
3. The scary Marxist choir on "Giants"
Reese Roper pointed out that this song was written by Dennis Culp, the FIF trombonist whom Roper called "The second most outspoken Republican I know." Libertarian and progressive concerns about big business meet here over a squonky guitar riff. There's a lot to love about this song, but the bridge in particular is where all hell breaks loose -- the sounds of construction, the anti-corporate chanting, and the evil operatic chorus singing about how multinationals are "pushing all the meek out of the way."
2. The insanely aggressive vocals on "The Day We Killed"
It's hard to pick a favorite vocal moment in this song about (again) genocide and killing people for money -- the scream at the beginning, the transition from whisper to growl at the end of each verse, the visceral low rumble of the pre-chorus "liiiiies! liiiies!" -- but I'm going to have to go with the last chorus, where Roper just adds that little extra something to the "no" in "the way you live shows NO remorse..." Hot damn, I got chills just writing that.
1. "BUY! TAKE! BREAK! THROW IT AWAY!" from "American Kryptonite"
Did I say "insanely aggressive?" I should maybe have saved that for this song. This track is the apex of FIF's angry lefty Christian mode. (They have two other moods: heart-on-sleeve Evangelical worship song mode, and immature 12-year-old boy joke mode.) This song, though: so sincere, so angry. So much bang-on righteous rage at the insane, misplaced American values of individualism and entitlement. And this bridge is the apex of the apex, especially the final repetition of "THROW IT AWAY! THROW IT AWAY! THROW IT AWAY!" while the band just relentlessly hammers on one chunky chord.
Seriously. Give this band some of your money.