The year is 2000. I’m a nerdy kid who’s been transitioning from listening to nothing but Weird Al to getting into harder stuff like punk and hardcore.
As much as I loved heavier stuff like Zao and Project 86 (Drawing Black Lines is still an incredible album, fight me), there wasn’t really an output for my wacky sense of humor.
Then, on a youth trip to Washington DC, I discovered ska.
There’s a strange relationship between 3rd wave ska and Christianity. While bands like Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Goldfinger had some mainstream recognition in the mid to late 90s, there was a crop of Christian ska punk bands that were well known in youth groups across the country.
Bands like the O.C. Supertones, Buck Enterprises, the Insyderz, and Five Iron Frenzy.
In a pop-up bookstore at that conference, it was this CD that ushered me into a whole new world. It was punk, but it had horns. It had an air of seriousness to it (“All that Is Good” is almost tearful. “One Girl Army” is damned inspiring), but there was a healthy dose of humor that ran alongside it.
Despite being an EP, this disc is one of the strongest releases in Five Iron’s discography. So strong, in fact, that I didn’t buy another FIF CD until two years ago. The first four tracks are among the greatest ska punk songs ever released, and are worth the cost of the disc alone.
The rest of the album takes itself a little less seriously. There’s a faithful cover of ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” the eleven-second chaos of “When I Go Out,” the protest swing song “Go and Get Your Riot Gear” which rails against police brutality with sardonic glee, and “The Untimely Death of Brad,” a punk rock eulogy for their trumpet player after a message board was consumed with rumors that he had died.
And then, there’s “These Are Not My Pants,” an eight-part genre-sprawling “rock opera” searching for the proper owner of a pair of pants (probably Bobby, it asserts). To a dweeby 13-year-old, this was the best part of the record—best displayed by the fact that I still have every second of it memorized.
This might be a joke-laden EP, but judging by the fact that I play in a ska band now, it’s influence on my life is undeniable. And now that it’s finally been pressed to vinyl, it’s going to get a lot more playtime on my stereo.