Welcome to the second edition of Meals for Music Lovers!
So, 2 weeks ago, I told you all about a guy named Trevor Hall. If it wasn’t clear in that post, I love his music. I love ALL music, really. If you know me at all, you know of my love for all aspects of music. Besides the Cincinnati Bearcats, it’s probably my favorite thing on this earth. I listen to Screamo, Acoustic, Rap music, R&B, Country music, Folk & Bluegrass, Pop, Worship music, Indie stuff, you name it; if it sounds good, I’ll listen to it.
I tend to go through phases with music. One month, I’ll listen to nothing but Justin Bieber (last time I admitted that I cried at Trevor Hall’s concert, so I’m not ashamed to admit that I, along with EVERY TEENAGE GIRL IN AMERICA, have the “Bieber-Fever”). The next month I’ll be jamming to the Avett Brothers and Chris Thile, and the next month I’ll choose The Devil Wears Prada and For Today’s head banging, loud, crazy madness to bring me my daily musically induced pleasure coma. Pretty wide range of genres, I know.
Anyway, this past summer I got really into Ska. I saw a movie (can’t remember the name) and its entire soundtrack was Ska. The Mighty Mighty BossTones, Reel Big Fish, Streetlight Manifesto, all of the big name Ska bands were included. I loved it, so I immediately got on my computer and began downloading as much Ska as possible. It’s really upbeat music, and the trumpet intros and electric guitar riffs are really awesome. The combination of all those things provide for an awesome listening experience. It really makes you want to just get up and dance and it puts you in a great mood. Like, seriously, it’s the perfect summer music (which explains why I bathed in the sounds of Ska all summer).
If you haven’t heard of Ska, I’ll start off by telling you: it’s probably the coolest music ever. It’s very complex. It utilizes so many different elements of musical artistry and creates a contemporary sound, which isn’t easy to do. Ska is basically a fusion of Reggae, Punk, Swing, and R&B, with the bands using, traditionally, trombones, trumpets, upright basses, electric guitars and electric bass guitars, keyboards, and of course, drums. Like I said, it’s really complex and these instruments don’t seem to really accompany one another very well but, MAN, the finished product is something special. So, yeah, that’s the cheat-sheet explanation of Ska music.
Back to this summer: So there I was, basking in my newly downloaded playlist of “Skawesomeness” all summer. The summer came to a close, and so did my love affair with Ska. Months passed, then suddenly in my first semester English class we read some of William Blake’s poetry, and oddly enough, a band that I had grown quite fond of over the summer, Five Iron Frenzy, used some of William Blakes poetry in one of their songs titled, “Every New Day.” Intrigued, I decided to investigate, and found that Five Iron Frenzy is actually a Christian band! This made sense because the poet, William Blake, is known for his comments on Christianity. In this edition of the Meals for Music lovers, I’m going to discuss how Five Iron Frenzy used Blake’s work to get their Christian message across.
In November 1997, the Christian Ska band, Five Iron Frenzy, released their second studio album titled, “Our Newest Album Ever!” Christian Ska…Ironic, huh? Ska, a fusion of R&B, Punk, and Reggae with a souped-up tempo, featuring a wide variety of instruments, traditionally includes a lot of profanity and non-Christian ideas. This makes Five Iron Frenzy a unique group. What is most interesting about this group though, is how they strike an uncanny resemblance to William Blake. The group, like Blake, uses their artistic medium, music, to make comments about Religion. To do this, they incorporate pop-culture into their music. Also like Blake, they incorporate biblical references into their music. The track titled “Fistful of Sand” draws from the book of Ecclesiastes, making the point that life is futile without the Lord. The track “Suckerpunch” explains that even misfits and outcasts are loved by God. They even have a track on the album, “Blue Comb ‘78” about losing a prized possession, that makes a comment on the loss of innocence. The resemblance to Blake and his works is uncanny. These references have led to Five Iron Frenzy to be known as “the thinking person’s Ska outfit.” –Bruce Brown
The most well-known track on the album “Every New Day” actually draws from William Blake’s poem, “The Tyger.” The song is about a person who is struggling with their faith. “When I was young, the smallest trick of light, / Could catch my eye, / Then life was new and every new day, / I thought that I could fly.” The song opens with these lyrics. What the speaker is saying is that as a child, things always seem new and exciting as you continue to learn new things. “I just don’t feel like flying anymore. / When the stars threw down their spears, / Watered Heaven with their tears.” The speaker then moves to the present, showing the struggle with keeping their faith, and then quoting William Blake directly. The lines “When the stars threw down their spears,/ Watered Heaven with their tears” come directly from Blake’s poem, “The Tyger.” This song, just like the Blake in “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience,” contrasts the gentle, innocence of life as well as the experiences one has in this life. “The Tyger,” specifically, is about having one’s reason overwhelmed by the natural world, which is what the speaker is struggling with in the song. “The struggles go on, / The wisdom I lack, / The burdens keep pilling / Up on my back. / So hard to breathe, / To take the next step. / The mountain is high, / I wait in the depths. / Yearning for grace, / And hoping for peace.” The band captures the essence of Blake perfectly. Throughout the rest of the song, the speaker begins each verse with a comment on innocence, and then comments on their struggle with faith caused by the natural world, with each chorus, and finally the ending, proclaiming their need for a relationship with the Lord and that this relationship will let “Every New Day feel so new.”
The use of Blake by the band did not change what Blake meant in “The Tyger.” Blake, in this song, was incorporated to draw a parallel to the song that they performed. They took Blake’s parallel of innocence and experience and used it in the same way Blake did in “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience,” commenting on Christianity using parallels innocence and experience in their lyrics. They used Blake’s words to help support their Christian beliefs. However, an interesting thing is that Blake did not really share the same beliefs as Five Iron Frenzy. Blake tended to comment on religion and its negativities. He tended to critique the church and its rules as well as the restrictions that those such as priests tended to enforce harshly. A good example of this can be seen in Blake’s poem, “A Little Boy Lost.” Check it out here–>
So, Five Iron Frenzy did capture Blake’s idea from “The Tyger,” they don’t necessarily have the same beliefs as he does, but they do use his method of parallels in the same way as Blake to convey their belief in Christ. They used his work (because Blake was a Christian) to illustrate their beliefs in the same way Blake used those lines in “The Tyger,” but it is important to understand that these two artists are very different, mainly because Five Iron Frenzy is commenting that faith in Christ is necessary, and Blake was commenting on the church’s imperfections.
However, It is clear that William Blake was an inspiration for the band because of the beliefs of the band and how they comment on and convey these beliefs. In incorporating the few lines from “The Tyger,” the band used its meaning to help support their Blake-like song, for it is this incorporation that allows us to see this parallel resemblance to Blake and his work. The addition of those two lines from Blake’s poem really adds a great deal to the meaning of their song and they definitely helped to strengthen their comment on the Christian faith.
Here’s the song–>
Now that you all are full (and I hope you enjoyed your meal) I hope you’ll tune in next time to get your fix of musical knowledge. Feel free to comment with any thoughts or questions!
Until then, stay hungry!
For the road:
Some links to some ska songs, for your listening pleasure–>
I want to give thanks to my classmates, first and foremost for commenting on my original piece and giving me some good ideas for this revision. Your thoughts were awesome and they were very helpful and they definitely helped me add some more to this piece. I also want to give thanks to my favorite Bearcats blogger, Paul Dehner Jr., for the inspiration of my blog-style piece, because I read his blog every day and I love it. Also I want to thank Professor Harris for valuable feedback to help me develop this piece further as well. Thanks!
Reflection on R3:
So, like my last revision, I decided to go with a blog-style approach. I chose to use this piece because I did my last one on a piece about music and I thought it’d be really fun to make this like a run-on blog type thing. I gave it a name, and I modeled it after a blogger that I’m very fond of, Paul Dehner Jr., who blogs about the Cincinnati Bearcats. His blog is called “Bearcats Breakfast” and it comes out every morning and so I wrote it in a similar style to his, naming it something relating to food, and starting with an intro and using the “Let’s eat” line. I also included some links that related to some of the stuff I had mentioned in the “blog.” I really like the digital style as well as the blog style because I like being able to let my voice be heard in my writing. Blogs are really great for this because I like how they are quite personal and it allows for my voice to be heard, so the reader hears me speaking to them, rather than just reading an article. I think that’s really important and it is really fun to write in that style. I also like being able to include an anecdote at the beginning, which is another way to help my voice be heard as well as allow the reader to relate to my story, which is what I think draws people to certain blogs.
I didn’t add too much to the first and second parts of my original piece, but I did make some changes in my conclusion, using some of the thoughts mentioned by my classmates who commented on my original piece. I thought that helped add some more to my article, as well as help the reader understand a little more about Blake and Five Iron Frenzy as well as the parallel between them. I think this depth was helpful for the overall feel of my piece.