I’ve waited two years for this. In 2011 Five Iron Frenzy launched a Kickstarter project for their comeback, raising a pile of money and ensuring a new album. Today the album officially releases. You should go buy it.
As a Kickstarter backer I’ve been listening to it for a couple weeks. It’s good stuff. Here’s the band talking about the new album:
Five Iron Frenzy was my favorite band as a teenager and it was the end of an era when they called it quits in 2003. Ten years later they’re back and it’s kind of incredible. I don’t think I ever expected Five Iron to get back together. They ended with such finality (out with a bang, not a whimper) it was clear they had seriously thought about it and were ending their career on their own terms. In some ways breaking up the way they did made it easier to put it all back together, assuming the right pieces were there. Five Iron has never been a band that would do some aging comeback tour, and it shows. They’re writing new material, and while it’s different, it’s still very much Five Iron Frenzy.
I’m curious to see how the new digital economy and a decade of difference will change things for Five Iron Frenzy. They don’t have a record company and they’ve all got day jobs. It did take two full years for the Kickstarter project to actually come to be. Will this be a one-off comeback? Or can we expect even more Five Iron in the future? I have no idea, but I can only hope for more.
So How’s the New Album?
The new album, Engine of a Million Plots, is pretty great. It feels different from earlier Five Iron, but after a decade that’s what you’re going to get. It’s probably less ska and more rock, but they were making that transition long before they broke up. In general, it’s hard hitting and full of energy, which is exactly what you expect.
Thematically it feels darker and full of longing. There’s a recurring theme of winter throughout the album. About two-thirds of the songs reference winter, cold or darkness. “I wanted to write something that was honest and deeply spiritual, but without the heavy handedness,” says Reese Roper, the primary lyricist. It sounds like an album written by a band that’s aged and lived over the last decade. It still has plenty of that Five Iron hope, but it’s also full of questions and doubt.
And it wouldn’t be a Five Iron album without some wackiness. I was disappointed the album lacks a completely weird song that’s under 30 seconds, but they do offer “Battle Dancing Unicorns With Glitter,” so I can’t complain too much.
It also wouldn’t be Five Iron Frenzy without a satirical jab at American culture, which you get with “Zen & the Art of Xenophobia.”
One of my favorite moments of the album is the opening track, “Against a Sea of Troubles,” when Roper’s voice comes through with the first words, sounding pained, scratchy and old. You can hear the last decade in his voice. But by the time they reach the chorus it’s full of strength and harmony. It’s a fitting beginning.
My other favorite songs include “So Far” with it’s driving rhythm, “Zen and the Art of Xenophobia” for the biting lyrics (“Lock and load/ just like Jesus did”), “We Own the Skies” which is as close as they come to one of their soaring praise anthems, and “Into Your Veins” with its frenetic pace and another classic Roper literary reference (The Guns of Navarone).
The End Is Here
We said goodbye to Five Iron Frenzy ten years ago, so this entire episode has been a gift. I hope it’s more than a single gift, but at this point every note is a miracle and I’m just going to enjoy it.