One thing’s for sure: Family Force 5 doesn’t like to put out the same album twice. This idea carries over into their latest album, The Third. When Family Force 5 released their aptly titled third album, III, there was a bit of an uproar, caused by the Family’s seeming departure from their 100% clean lyrics. Songs like “Mamacita” and “Dang Gurl,” though not nearly as troublesome as most tracks from the “party” scene, were less innocent than most fans would have preferred. Whether it was by the record company or by the band, the wise decision was made to re-release the album with an altered track list. Now titled The Third, this album sports eight tracks from the original album, with the less fortunate tracks replaced with two songs from the III.V EP. The question is not whether the album was improved by this decision, but whether the Family’s latest lives up to their previous material.
Their debut, Business in the Front, Party in the Back, was a fresh, original “crunk rock” record, full of crunchy guitars and hip-hop beats. Dance or Die, their sophomore album, was an equally unique dance album, harkening back to the 80’s. The Third takes an approach closer to that of modern pop, whilse still retaining some of the Family’s freshness. However, something this album severely lacks is a sense of continuity. One can expect some changes in flow from a re-release, but the frequent changes in guitars and synths do not work in its favor. These stylistic changes give the album a disjointed feel, which is disappointing. It feels less like an album as it does a collection of songs. And, as would be expected with an album so disjointed, there are definite highs and lows.
The highs are certainly found in the songs where Family Force 5 nails the combination between their previous sounds. While they mostly drop the 80’s vibe here, the dance elements from their sophomore album are here and in front. While the crunchy guitars and southern twang are less prevalent, they can still be heard on some songs. The tracks where these two aspects come together are the highlights of the album, most notably “Paycheck” and “Love Gone Wrong.”
The lows of this album are songs that are hard to categorize into a genre. If I were to name it, it might be called “whatweretheythinking.” Songs like “Can You Feel It” and “Get On Outta Here” are not only meaningless lyrically, but their music is nearly cringe-worthy. As I said before, the songs are highly unique, but that doesn’t make them good.
However, the pitfall that most of this album falls into is the category of mediocre songs. (Random note – there really ought to be an ode to all songs from this category, titled “Land of Misfit Songs.”) I cannot recall a single note of “Superhero” or “Not Alone,” whereas some songs I would have preferred to have forgotten. Songs like “Wobble” and “Zombie” are fun to listen to, but will likely be out of your playlist after the first few listens.
Lyrically, the band hasn’t improved much, or at all, yet this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Family Force 5 has never been a preaching band. They’ve always provided good, clean party music with a positive message, without shoving the Gospel in your face. While this may not sound like a great evangelical strategy, it allows them to witness and empathize with people who otherwise wouldn’t have heard the Gospel or would have ignored it, which they have been known to do – frequently. However, I generally look for artistry in lyrics, which is a large reason why I love music, and there’s not much artistry here. It seems most of the lyrics are meaningless, which seems like a “dumbing down” of a project that could have been much more. But FF5 has always been this way, so if you’re okay with a simple, positive message, you’ll probably enjoy The Third.
“Paycheck” – Family Force 5 has done what few bands have been able to do before: create a song about money that doesn’t idolize it. It takes the best elements from their first two albums and combines them with a message inspired by some of their fans.
“Love Gone Wrong” – Similar to “Paycheck,” this song tells a story using the best elements of the Family’s reportoire.
“Cray Button (ft. Lecrae)” – I feel like a hypocrite. Not only do I hate overproduced pop music, but I find the word “cray” (a replacement for “crazy”) incredibly annoying. Yet, while this song falls under both categories and doesn’t fit in with any other FF5 song, I can’t help but love this catchy, bassy tune.
“Get On Outta Here” – A rather meaningless song, seemingly about kicking some guy out of a club. Even if Satan is the metaphorical party crasher, it still feels mean-spirited and lame musically.
“Can You Feel It” – This song is…weird. It’s pretty hard to describe, you really just have to listen to it (or ignore it.) Lyrics are equally mediocre.
With “The Third,” Family Force 5 has created a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. Some people may choose to buy it simply because they enjoy the band, but because of the stylistic change, I’d recommend listening to the songs first and picking which ones to buy (if any). That’s not to say “The Third” is a bad album by any means, but it’s certainly not the Family’s best. Call me a hipster, but it seems like they might be going mainstream.
6.5 out of 10 stars.