Family Force 5 - Dance or Die (Cover Artwork)

Family Force 5

Dance or Die (2008)

Tooth & Nail

I picked this album up following Scott Heisel's Best of 2008 list. I was fairly impressed by most of the stuff on the list but couldn't for the life of me establish how these guys had got on it. My initial impression was that they were a Tooth & Nail version of Brokencyde, which is just a horrible thought. What I actually found was something a little different.

One of the major issues with this album is its split personality. There are two fairly different styles on show here -- the first, a Justice-influenced dance groove and the second, a hip-hop/nü-metal blend. The difference in styles has left this as a fairly disjointed album. The songs don't sit comfortably together and whole thing would work a lot better if someone had put some thought into the running order.

This division seems to be the unending issue here. For half of the album the guys wear their influences of Justice, Basement Jaxx, Air and Empire of the Sun on their sleeves. In fairness, this half is a success. The songs are interesting, the composition is fun and the tracks have the grooves and hooks you would hope for. There are no major surprises here but these tracks are a lot better than most bands that ape Justice.

The other half of the album is much less appealing. I can imagine these songs are the live crowd-pleasers. There's masses of aggressive beats and basslines, puerile one-liners are repeated over and over again and the grooves and hooks are gone. It comes together like the worst parts of party hip-hop trying to dry-hump nü-metal. What makes it worse is that these songs are interspersed evenly between the decent ones, so you're stuck with this awkward, schizophrenic album that stumbles and falters from beginning to end.

The thing is, these guys sound like they have loads of conviction in what they do and at times make some really fun music, but they do need to decide what sort of music they are going to make. I have no issue with diverse albums when they work, but this isn't one of them. They've tried the rock/hip-hop blend and, like most who've attempted this, it didn't work. On occasion they have a fairly decent ear for dance hooks and grooves, and I'd rather they had taken the risk at developing this sound.

All I can say is that this had the potential to be awful and in reality half of it comes close; however, the other half is good. There are a lot of really terrible bands/dance acts out there and these guys have avoided becoming this. If you're going to get this album, make sure it's at an EP price because you're going to delete half of it.