Friday, November 04, 2005
One of my favorite bands is Five Iron Frenzy, a Christian ska band whose songs were too full of references to God for the mainstream stations and too full of sarcasm for the Christian ones. Relient K has managed to be slightly more subtle and less acerbic, and being of the more enduring genre of pop-punk, they've achieved success on both kinds of radio. FIF did manage to release quite a few albums, though, with each having a facetious name. Starting with Upbeats and Beatdowns, they followed with Our Newest Album Ever and Quantity is Job 1 (an EP of eight songs). They then released a live album, Proof that the Youth are Revolting, recorded at Cornerstone '99. All the Hype that Money Can Buy and FIF 2: Electric Boogaloo came after this. Announcing that they were amicably breaking up at the end of 2003, they released their final studio album, The End is Near, which they later combined with the recording of their final concert and called the result The End is Here.
The band itself was talented, and able to do everything from pure ska to reggae to swing, plus occasional covers of Tom Jones and Electric Light Orchestra. They were self-deprecating, with the song Where's Micah? about their guitar player's chronic absenteeism and The Untimely Death of Brad which addressed online rumors of the death of their trumpet player (who gets some choice parts in the song). The lyrics were often very funny, and often very poignant. Songs like Dandelions and Cannonball were great analogies, and A Flowery Song used Doxology as its chorus.
However, perhaps their greatest song came from Our Newest Album Ever. It was the last track on that album, the last track on Proof that the Youth are Revolting, the last track on The End is Here, and the chorus of it was used on the last track of The End is Near. They always ended their show with this song. The song is Every New Day, and is absolutely beautiful. When I die, I wouldn't mind having this song played at my funeral, and if I have a tombstone, I might very well consider having the chorus inscribed. Here is the end of the song:
"Man vs. himself,
Man vs. machine,
Man vs. the world,
Mankind vs. me!
The struggles go on,
The wisdom I lack,
The burdens keep piling
Up on my back.
So hard to breathe,
To take the next step.
The mountain is high,
I wait in the depths.
Yearning for Grace,
And hoping for peace,
Healing hands of God have mercy on our unclean souls once again
Jesus Christ, Light of the World, burning bright within our hearts forever
Freedom means love without condition, without a beginning or an end
Here's my heart, let it be forever Yours
Only You can make every new day seem so new."
On The End is Here, you can hear Reese Roper, the lead singer, getting increasingly choked up as the concert goes on. Fans have flown in from all over the country and even from abroad for the very last show. Most bands end up breaking up suddenly, and so there's not much warning. This was different. Everyone there knew the words to the songs and sang along. You could feel the love between the fans and the band, and could tell what a bittersweet occasion it was for everyone. After the penultimate song, the crowd chants "F-I-F!" over and over. This song was introduced with the words "This is our last song. You guys know what this song is. We always play it last, it's called Every New Day." The guitar begins strumming ever-so-slightly slower than usual, and the song begins. Listening to the instruments, it's obvious that they're trying to drag it out just a tiny bit to squeeze a precious few seconds more out of their very last song as a band. The horns are giving absolutely everything they have; I've been in a situation like that a few times, and you can tell by the way they hit the accents extra hard and are obviously playing as loud as they possibly can without disrupting the music or making sour notes. To Reese's vocals, there's a weird sensation, like fuzz. I listened closely, and it's the sound of hundreds of fans singing along. At the beginning of the bridge, there's an instrumental part. Reese speaks during this, saying "you are not alone" three times, and then adds "I love you guys." By the time they get to that last verse, nothing is being held back. The guitars are perfect, and Reese is doing things with his voice which he never attempted on the other albums. He won't have to sing the next day; he can afford to go for the extra octave. As the instruments close out, he keeps repeating "hallelujah" in time with the music. Finally, the song ends with the last guitar slowly dying out. The crowd doesn't demand an encore, but simply chants "Thank You" over and over.