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May 2000 Pick of the Month
All the Hype That Money Can Buy
Artist:  Five Iron Frenzy
Label:  5 Minute Walk Records
Time:  15 Tracks/45:23 minutes

The Phantom Mullet

It takes an awful lot of guts to release a song against homophobia on a Christian label:

     I was in eighth grade
     I said he was a queer
     I thought he had it coming
     He died of AIDS that year
     My liberty
     As if Christ's death meant nothing to me
     (From "Fahrenheit")

It takes even more to follow that up with a song condemning Christian escapism and isolationism:

     The radio is preaching the candy coated goo
     The record companies and the TV, too
     No one rocks the boat
     Terrified of trouble
     Can't tamper with the walls of their sterile Christian bubble
     It was never your intention to get people saved
     (From "Four Fifty One")

These two songs serve as a pattern of sorts for the rest of All the Hype That Money Can Buy, Denver, Colorado natives Five Iron Frenzy's fifth album, including one nine-song EP and one live album.  All the Hype… comes across as extremely harsh, with chief lyricist/lead vocalist Reese Roper attacking everything from capitalism ("Giants") to people who use music as an outlet for their inflated egos ("All the Hype").  And while Roper and his zany crew have denounced various practices on their previous records (see "Old West" from Upbeats and Beatdowns, "Handbook For the Sellout" from Our Newest Album Ever!, or "The Untimely Death of Brad" from Quantity is Job 1), never before have they been so direct in their assaults (or so catchy in 
their choruses, for that matter). 

Amongst all this aggression, however, there are more than a few songs on which Roper points his critical eye within.  Take "Ugly Day," which finds him crooning like Reverend Al Green:

     Something snapped deep inside me
     Something that somebody said
     I felt the brush of angels wings then
     And your voice echoed in my head…

     I would lie down on the street
     To keep the dust off of your feet
     I would kneel each time I kissed you
     Anything, Christie I miss you

Tender worship songs like "Hurricanes" and "World Without End" are destined to become this album's versions of "Dandelions" and "Every New Day," while "A New Hope" (sounding considerably better than it did on last year's live record Proof That the Youth Are Revolting) explores the reasons behind the massacre at Littleton High School.  There are even a few of the band's signature silly songs, the most notable of which is "The Phantom Mullet," a butt-rock ode to that "virus" of a haircut sported by Billy Ray Cyrus and pro wrestlers across the country. 

Musically, there's more variety on this album than on any of its predecessors, from the reggae-romp of "Solidarity" (featuring guest vocalist Randy Stonehill) to the quiet, percussion-driven "Hurricanes" to the infectious uniqueness of "Giants."  It's a stretch calling some of these songs ska (and the band probably wouldn't have it any other way), but certainly a few of the songs ("Me Oh My," "Four Fifty One") were influenced by the genre.

To put it simply, All the Hype That Money Can Buy is unbelievable.  It's almost certainly destined to become the band's magnum opus, and could well go down in history as one of the greatest Christian albums of all time. 

Michial Farmer 04/29/2000



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