It’s no great secret that I love the band Five Iron Frenzy. I often give them such lofty praise as ‘the one good Christian band,’ or ‘great ska’ or ‘the one thing that stuck with me from church.’ But did you knooooowwww that they aren’t, in fact, popular? or rather, that in the spaces they’re from, they have this habit of annoying people?
Come along, check it out, and enjoy learning about just some of the ways that a Christian Ska band from Colorado managed to piss off lots of people in the superstructure that meant they got to be something as niche as an internationally famous Christian ska band at all.
The Old West
Who Got Mad: Christian retailers.
The Old West is a song that uh, it’s about manifest destiny? And the genocide of the Native American population? Aaaaand it uses the word rape in the chorus. And then it draws a direct comparison between that kind of person and the Christians who employ violence and harrassment to try and coerce people to convert. It’s a real red hot stinging shell casing of a song, it’s the kind of thing you drop when you have people’s attention already and you can be sure they’re not going to permanently dumpster you from your label for upsetting folks.
This was the first song, on their first released album. This album hit shelves and then got put away once someone’s parents complained.
Then they got dumped from their label.
But they kept going.
Blue Comb ’78
Who Got Mad: … some people.
It’s kind of hard to pin down exactly what unified the people who got mad at this song. It does sound silly, but FiF made lots of silly songs. Most of those songs, like Kingdom of the Dinosaurs or Combat Chuck are kind of forgettable, cycled in, performed live, and dropped. But Blue Comb 78 is a weird song because Roper seems to really like it. And he performed it live and he took it seriously and … it wasn’t about a joke? It seemed?
See, as far as I understand it, Blue Comb 78 is kind of supplemented by the detail that Roper’s parents got divorced in 78.
See, the comb is a metaphor.
And knowing that, some fans got mad about that, seeing it as a song that should be about how Divorce Is Bad. But it wasn’t a song about divorce being bad. It was a song about how Reese lost something and could only talk about it in oblique terms.
The Untimely Death of Brad
Who Got Mad: Too Online Fans.
You know given this album has a song about how cops start riots, it’s a surprise to me to look back and consider that, yeah, it’s the song about Brad that annoyed the most people as far as I could see. Maybe people were pretty attuned to Denver cops being bad.
Anyway, FiF existed in the early days of the internet and it turns out that there were people talking on that internet. Sometimes they talked about bands they liked. Sometimes, they talked about Five Iron Frenzy. And when they did that, sometimes they talked complete nonsense.
The Untimely Death of Brad is a song about a rumour that fans circulated during their tour dates. That Brad Ortega, one of the band members had died, and… was missing? Which was weird, because he wasn’t? So they made a song mocking the rumour.
And fans, on the internet, got mad about being made fun of.
Who Got Mad: Everyone Still Mad About The Old West.
Okay, so Five Iron Frenzy, you just released your first album, it’s good, people like it, but there was that controversy where you poured ashes upon our heads by reminding us of our part in a series of genocides. So the label dropped you. But now you have a new label and a new record and all you have to do is keep your head down and make the kind of Christian Ska we liked from the first album minus the uh, genocide stuff.
Anyway, this song is about how America killed Black Kettle.
Real good ‘I’LL DO IT AGAIN,’ energy here, FiF.
Who Got Mad: NRA Christians, centrists
Look so far you may have gotten the basic message that this is not a band that is comfortable with the idea of being too well-liked by people they find odious. And uh, Renegades is just one of many songs on Until This Shakes Apart, an album that has launched to a pretty positive reception amongst leftist Christians and hard resentment from your more typical right-winger types. It was a toss-up for a couple of songs on this one, whether to use Tyrannis, about Confederacy worship, or While Supplies Last, about christian complicity in the racist dominionism of Donald Trump. But that wasn’t new, they were already taking shots there.
No, Renegades is about gun advocates.
Note, it’s not about gun control. No, this song is about putting the Christian community that believe school shootings are acceptable on blast, directly, and how they are ultimately just parts of a corporate engine:
You want your ledgers black
We want our children back