“The Circle in the Square,” Flobots third album, has a bit of an identity crisis, fluctuating between political and personal.
Although the first three tracks are subpar and a bit terse, the album begins to breathe fresh air once it gets to the fourth track “Sides.” Here, Flobots’ shift from almost strictly political and social to personal themes becomes obvious. In the past, Flobots’ bread and butter was its ability to pair a political outburst with taut rhythm and rhyme schemes. With “The Circle in the Square,” the band has made an agreement with its listeners to gently tiptoe between political and personal topics.
Songs change tempo frequently. As do time signatures and messages. This is good, however, as this disc is 15 tracks and there’s plenty for everyone.
The biggest fans of the viola, so prevalent in its past recordings, will be a bit sad as the instrument is now nothing more than background, other than the occasional highlight.
Two songs on the disc are remarkable for different reasons: “The Circle in the Square” and “Loneliness.” Both are dramatic, and both demonstrate Flobots’ ability to transcend musical genres; “Circle” reads as the soul of an activist’s political goals, and “Loneliness” is a vignette of personal, deep pain.
The title track is fun, yet sounds as if a band already played it in a punk-rock filled Bernie’s Bagels, a dive bar with a rich history, located 1896 N. High St. Lively, hearty and a party-starter, this track is anything but original.
“Loneliness” offers something more. It changes, somehow possessing the ability to be sad, bluesy, hopeful and ethereal, simultaneously. It is slower in tempo, and provides a lyrical delivery that forces the lucky, the wretched and everyone in between to rub elbows with heartache.
This is a band that has the ability to please everyone’s tastes. Album three from the Flobots doesn’t disappoint. If anything, we’ve grown up with it, and every listen of “The Circle in the Square” will grow with us.