PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Flobots: Fight With Tools

Midwestern rappers offer boring but globally conscious jams built on sparse beats and scathing viola.


Fight With Tools

Label: Universal Republic
US Release Date: 2008-05-20
UK Release Date: Available as import

Flobots prove you can’t judge a hip-hop group by its name. With their moniker a clear play on the title of a junky 1980s cartoon and boasting a member named Jonny 5, I was certain I was in for some kind of artificial intelligence-themed nerdcore act that spit rhymes about electric sheep, restraining bolts, and binary load lifters. How surprised was I when it turned out these Flobots were nothing of the sort. Why, these people don’t rap about robots at all! I haven’t been this let down since the Mets traded Lenny Dykstra (an event, in retrospect, that shouldn’t have affected me as deeply as it did).

Nay, these Flobots spend the majority of Fight With Tools railing against the social and political ills of the world in a sparse style reminiscent of Cake, sans the quirk. Viola player MacKenzie Roberts lays down some dramatic string work, which only serves to underscore the campus-lecture atmosphere that Flobots’ serious beats and lyrics suggest. I feel like I should be wearing extremely tight pants, sipping a Jamba Juice, and holding some kind of Animal Liberation Front pamphlet while I listen to this.

Flobots’ big hit is “Handlebars”, which is three-and-a-half minutes of obnoxious boasting from a disjointed man-child who sounds like he’s trying to impress a bunch of third graders. At times, he sounds like a third grader himself: “I can tie a knot in a cherry stem / I can tell you about Leif Erikson / I know all the words to De Colores / and I’m proud to be an American”). I feel like parts of this song may have been lifted from a rap Raven Simone did back when she was just a sassy half pint on The Cosby Show. No way a full-grown man could consciously create something this irritating.

At one point in “Handlebars”, the narrator boasts that he and his friend made a comic book. Hey guy, guess what? I made a bunch of comic books with my friend Josh when we were kids. It was a series called Goggle Guy. We made about 10 different issues and actually sold some of them. Call me when you and your buddy pop out issue number two, which will hopefully happen sometime before you “end the planet in a holocaust” as you threaten toward the end of your little brag session.

In general, the “let’s mobilize and change the world” attitude that Flobots offer on Fight With Tools gets old pretty fast. This is because the Colorado rappers insist on serving their dinner fairly straight up, with no tasty garnish or dynamic subterfuge. Rage Against the Machine attained massive popularity because they laced their socio-political messages with sick, unhinged funk metal riffs that were a sheer joy for baggy-pantsed teens to mosh around to. Sure, a lot of those kids probably missed the point, but those who didn’t also enjoyed themselves and didn’t feel like they were being shamed into action.

At the end of the day, Flobots and their sophomore effort can be summed up by the album’s third track, “Same Thing”. As the chorus demonstrates, they’re just saying the same things over again, giving us the same revolutionary slogans anti-establishment forces have been shouting in the face of “The Man” for years: “We want money for healthcare and public welfare / free Mumia and Leonard Peltier!”

Yeah, and legalize weed and get our troops out of Iraq and shut down Guantanamo. Save the environment, ban handguns, give whales the right to vote, stop rising milk prices, blow up Disneyland, let Wookiees get married, and change the national anthem to the Alka-Seltzer jingle. More importantly, someone get Flobots a farfisa or some kazoos or that huge piano from Big so next time I don’t feel like some underclass library assistant is haranguing me about a load of crap that isn’t my fault at the Student Union poetry slam.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.


MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.