November 22, 2003 marked the end of the Five Iron Frenzy era. Their music and influence will not soon be forgotten, but it was on that date that they played their final show in Denver, Colorado, and said goodbye. Each member has gone their separate way, some starting new bands. The latest to do so is none other than Five Iron vocalist Reese Roper. Originally in a band called Guerilla Rodeo as a side project while Five Iron Frenzy finished up its career, Reese left that venture and started Roper.
By far the most anticipated release of the "post-FiF" projects, Roper brings pretty much exactly what you'd expect. Brace Yourself for the Mediocre possesses an aggressive pop/punk/rock sound very similar to that of Five Iron Frenzy. In fact, you might even refer to it as a "horn-less Five Iron" if you so desired. But keyboard effects reminiscent of another Reese Roper side project, Brave Saint Saturn, keep comparisons at some sort of minimum. However, it would be no stretch to say that Roper's complete sound is a manifestation of Five Iron Frenzy and Brave Saint Saturn.
What does all of that mean? It means that FiF-purists are going to hear music in the grand tradition of their favorite band. Those expecting Reese Roper to branch off and create a new song are badly mistaken. But then again, does anybody really expect Roper to change things up? Reese continues to do what he's done for the last nine years, and shares it with the new band members around him.
And while no one can argue that when Five Iron Frenzy released their final studio project, The End Is Near, they had achieved a "peak performance" status. They had tweaked and experimented enough with their sound that The End Is Near was arguably a perfect album (Not to mention, a beautiful way to end their career). And, yes, the sound of that historic band is most definitely preserved in Roper, but it does seem like we are starting over. The base is there, but the growing and maturing is going to have to take place just as it did with Five Iron Frenzy throughout the years.
But just as Upbeats and Beatdowns was a great start for an aspiring band, so is Brace Yourself for the Mediocre. The album begins with "Hello Lamewads," which is nothing more than a simple greeting with the typical sarcasm and cynical attitude FiF fans have come to love and expect. "You're with Stupid" addresses the subject of girls whom fall for the stereotypical 'perfect guy,' "And you're unaware that his eyes are never on you/ He's working on his game/ Just pretend that you're in love with… what's his name?"
Each song has the obvious "Reese Roper" signature all over it. The quick wit and the brutal, in-your-face overtones are all there. But unlike more of his later writings in FiF, the lyrics rarely dig very deep. Rather, similar to Upbeats…, Roper shows potential to go deeper, but plays it safe and keeps the topics light. "Quicksilver" addresses how shallow we are in putting all our wealth in worldly things, while "1985" talks about just that, with different pop culture references to crack a grin on the faces of those that were alive then.
The album's end is a little bit country, and a little bit of worship. Second to last on Brace Yourself… is an absolutely hilarious cover of Shania Twain's country hit, "You're Still the One." Never in my life have I heard a country song so beautifully translated into punk form. Or have I ever heard a country song gone punk in the first place?
Perhaps the album's best moment, however, comes at the very end. Breathe a sigh of relief, FiF fans, the worship at the end of each Five Iron release lives on with Roper. "In Excelsis Deo" doesn't stray very far from Roper's sound as Five Iron's worship songs seemed to stray from theirs, but this is a wonderful closer and a brilliant tribute, "The Sun will shine on winter snow/ And shadows buried… In Excelsis Deo… The Sun will shine forever."
A great start. That pretty much sums up Brace Yourself…. There's nothing that overtly stands out about the project, but nothing really weighs it down either. This is a band with a lot of promise and a firm foundation to build off. And it almost becomes a cliché, but I simply cannot wait to see what these guys do in the future.- Review date: 10/17/04, written by Josh Taylor
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