Family Force 5want you to dance. They like to dance, they like it when girls dance and they absolutely insist, forcefully and relentlessly, that you dance too. Within the first track alone, the band encourage us to “dance or die”; inform us that “dancing is a weapon” (your guess is as good as mine on that one) and, most disarmingly, hijack the tune of that little ditty you sing before a thumb war in order to “declare a dance war”. Yes, folks – what we’re grappling with here is a band that shoehorns a mini-cover of ’1234, I Declare A Thumb War’ into their album’s opening track and, accordingly, are about as annoying as you might imagine – but also, to be fair, a potential guilty pleasure.
Lyrically, as I mentioned before, the band remain pretty much single minded in their insistence on you shaking your hips. After inviting us to dance or die with the opening title track, the band move swiftly into the second track’s repetitive chorus of “Get your back off the wall, get your back off the wall, get your back off the wall, get your back off the wall…” (In case you didn’t fully comprehend that they would like you to get your back off the wall, they have helpfully entitled the song ‘Get Your Back Off The Wall’ in order to really drive the point home). The mind-numbing repetition in this song is unfortunately mirrored throughout the album where the only sense of variety is provided by the lead singer’s alternating between the vocal deliveries of Fred Durst and T Pain with wild vocal filters masking the vocalists’ true timbre throughout.
The overall production on this album, in fact, seems like a deliberate attempt to squeeze all of the human aspects out of the recording as possible – and I don’t necessarily mean that to the band’s detriment. Since their sole purpose is to make you throw shapes, it’s almost forgivable that everything is twisted out of all recognition until it sounds like a synth – vocals, guitars… and probably some actual synths. If there’s one thing to be said to really compliment this album, it’s that it does sound huge. The kick drum pounds and the whole thing throbs and gyrates with a colossal, stadium filling fusion of rock and dance. And, for better or worse (although, usually worse), you come out of the other side of all these songs knowing the choruses. It’s no crazy flight of fancy to imagine production and choruses this huge to be pumping at major sporting events for adrenaline inducing bass attack.
Equally, it’s not a huge leap of imagination to picture an album further into their career where Family Force 5 might clumsily stumble upon a perfect mixture of parody and tongue in cheek homage much like Chromeo do for electro-dance or Andrew WK for glam rock. What really puts the nail in the coffin for this album, however, is a pervading sense of self-seriousness throughout the record. Unlike the aforementioned Chromeo or Andrew WK, Family Force 5 just don’t seem to wink. The listener constantly has that uneasy feeling that the band just might be delivering this stuff in straight faced seriousness. The songs walk the tightrope between being big, balls-out fun and downright irritating and, unfortunately, come down on the wrong side. Given the options of ‘Dance or Die’, I’d suspect a lot of listeners might plump for the latter.