Five Iron Frenzy is an interesting band. A lot of people in the punk scene don't like them because they're Christian, yet at the same time a lot of Christians don't like them because they aren't "Christian" enough. What sets this band apart from most Christian bands to me is the way they are able to write both insightful and funny lyrics without following the cliched "when we're not writing praise songs lets write songs about girls" formula laid out by a lot of other Christian punk bands. This is especially true in their latest and last release, The End Is Near.
Musically, this album sounds a lot like their last studio album, Electric Boogaloo, while at the same time blowing it away. Most of the ska elements from the band's earlier work are gone, but the horns are still there adding a distinctive sound to all the tracks, making the whole thing sound a lot more epic. Reese's vocals sound more passionate and developed here than on any other album. The whole band sounds tighter as a group now and this album is like a reflection on their time as a band and a goodbye gift to their fans.
The End Is Near starts off with "Cannonball", which is slower and heavier than most FIF work. It's not the strongest song on the album, but it does work to establish the sound and feeling of the album and works great as an opening track. The album also has some lighter tracks on it such as "At Least I'm Not Like All Those Other Old Guys" in which Reese pokes fun at himself for being old at the ripe age of 29, "Wizard Needs Food, Badly" which is like a song about being a geeky guy, kind of like "Suckerpunch" or "You Can't Handle This", and "So Far, So Bad" which pokes fun at the music industry. The album also contains some of the bands most emotional songs. "It Was Beautiful" is a reflection on the band's career and the times they spent together. "American Kryptonite" is musically one of the heaviest tracks I've heard from the band, with Reese screaming the vocals "Buy, take, break, throw it away" as a criticism of most of North American society today. Another standout track is "Farewell to Arms", which is basically aout the same issue that I started out this review with. It challenges both Christians and non-Christians alike, saying that the problem with Christianity isn't God, but the church and the way so many Christians act in general. It also reminds non-Christians that just because there are obviously a lot of problems with the current state of the church that they shouldn't judge everyone and everything "Christian" as the same. The last two tracks on the album bring everything to a climax. "That's How The Story Ends" sums up most of Five Iron Frenzy's joke songs from previous albums, answering questions like "where did Micah go?" and "who's pants are these anyway?". Anyone new to the band probably won't get the jokes, but to long time fans this song is hilarious. The last song on the album, "On Distant Shores", is quite possibly one of the best songs I have ever heard. It's a five minute anthem that is truly a great closing not only to this album, but the career of the band as well. Reese vocals sound more passionate here than on any other song on the album, building the emotion up until near the end of the song, where it suddenly breaks into the closing lines of the classic show-ender "Every New Day". I can't think of any more fitting way for them to end their last album than with this song, and it sounds better here than it ever has before.
For fans of Five Iron Frenzy it's a no-brainer, you need this album. For people not familiar with them, I would say to definitely give it a chance. It's only available at their shows or from their website until next spring, so if you can see them before their last show in November I would definitely go. I had never seen them before two weeks ago and it was one of the best shows I've ever seen, and this album hasn't left my CD player since I got it. I can't give this anything less than a 10, not only because of the album itself, but because of how perfectly it represents the career of a band of people that haven't been afraid to be who they are despite criticism thrown at them from both the punk and Christian communities. Although half of the band is still together as Brave Saint Saturn, it's just not going to be the same without the rest of Five Iron Frenzy backing them up. I'm gonna miss these guys (and girl).