A couple years ago, music fans were introduced to the fun and funky sounds of Atlanta-based crunk rockers, Family Force 5 with their debut, Business Up Front, Party In The Back. Possessing a major in partying, a minor in spirituality and high achievement in providing one of the greatest (and craziest) live shows around, it wasn't too long before Family Force 5 started grabbing people's attention across the country. Their sophomore release, Dance Or Die, retains the heart of what it is fans have come to love about them, but with it the band trades in the "crunk rock" sound for a decidedly more dance club friendly approach.
When the long awaited Business Up Front, Party In The Back had finally released in early 2006, fans had already been familiar with many of the songs on the album, with a great deal of it having been recorded for a demo the year before. When Business... saw a re-release in 2007 the guys added three more songs that seemed to guide their sound more towards an edgier, slightly more serious direction (the humbling heart of "Facedown" especially hinted towards this). Now more than another year later, Family Force 5 is eager to get fans out on the dance floor, and Dance Or Die is fashioned to do just that. Their long awaited full-length follow-up introduces more synthesizers - often with an 80's synth pop flavor (as evidenced in the title track), stretching the boundaries of what listeners may expect from the band in the process. A listen through Dance Or Die proves that Family Force 5 can be as unpredictable in their songwriting as they are on stage. The record offers surprises at just about every turn.
Written somewhat as a concept album, Dance Or Die contains more to it than meets the eye. The songs carry a supposed theme about a galactic battle where a planet can only be saved from a robot attack with the use of killer dance moves. With that, Dance Or Die has moments where we're clearly not supposed to take it all too seriously, yet offers lyrical substance that Family Force leaves open to interpretation. In addition to the story that threads through the album's track listing, songs like the ridiculously catchy sacrificial rocker "D-I-E 4 Y-O-U" doubles as a love song from Christ to us, "Fever" (which is also sort of the new "Love Addict") raves of the infection of the Holy Spirit, "Wake The Dead" calls the complacent out of their proverbial coffins, and "Radiator" serves as a grand finale of sorts that reflects on the believer's spiritual ascension to Heaven. While the conceptual story isn't included in the album artwork and has not yet been released, the band has included enough references to some kind of intergalactic tussle to pique the listener's interest for more about the band's intended story.
Musically, Dance Or Die is anything but mundane or boring. While artists like Daft Punk and Justice are obvious influences on Family Force's latest venture, the band retains key elements from their previous record to keep the migration to the full-on dance scene from being too heavy a shock to the system. The guys even manage to slow things down for a change of pace, offering up a pair of ballads with "How in the World" and "Share it with Me" (the latter of which having been partially inspired by an actual devastating break-up), as well as the punk/pop-influenced electro fast-rock sounds of "The First Time." While the slower tracks do disrupt the raw energy and pulse-racing momentum produced from the rest of the album's nine tracks, the successful stylistic shifts prove the band's versatility, as well as their determination to keep things fresh and interesting - even if the ballads lose a bit of the "blast-it-with-the-car-windows-down" cool factor that the more upbeat tracks display.
When all is said and done, Dance Or Die is fun and funky, targeting the will of dance floor dwellers and party people across the nation. While some of the deeper, spiritual themes may take a bit more digging to find, Dance Or Die may still offer a bit more substance than you'd expect from projects of this genre... as well as from a concept album about taking on robotic enemies through the sheer power of dominating the dance-off. But from the delicious synth-heavy title track and the bold anti-wallflower anthem "Get Your Back off the Wall" to the delectable "Wake The Dead" and the triumphant Soft Cell-meets-Marilyn Manson finale of "Radiator," Dance Or Die is anything but a sophomore slump and proof that Family Force 5 has what it takes to engage our feet as well as our hearts, all the while giving listeners hope to dance about another day.- PReview date: 8/3/08; Review date: 8/17/08, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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