|Five For Fighting - The Battle For Everything|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Kevin Greenstein|
|Tuesday, 03 February 2004|
Rather than following up the relatively successful America Town with a similarly textured record, Five For Fighting made the wise choice to take some musical risks with their latest effort, The Battle For Everything. The result is a sonically interesting musical journey, one in which singer/songwriter John Ondrasik takes full advantage of the opportunities provided by his previous success.
Of course, he does not completely abandon the trademark sound of America Town. The first single off the new album, "100 Years," certainly evokes the songwriting style and production aesthetic of "Superman," the band's biggest hit to date. The song takes the listener on a poetic trip through the stages of life, punctuated by the opera-trained Ondrasik's trademark shift between falsetto and full voice.
On a couple of other tracks – "If God Made You" and "Dying" – FFF also recaptures the sound of America Town. These songs are not the high points of the record, though. Other than "100 Years," which is admittedly probably the best-written song on the album, it is when Ondrasik takes commercial risks that The Battle For Everything becomes most interesting.
The album’s first song, "New York City Weather Report," poignantly captures the tenor of New York following the tragic events of 9/11, expressing the difficulty many New Yorkers felt in either staying or leaving their wounded home. Other standout tracks include "Angels and Girlfriends," "The Devil In the Wishing Well" and "The Taste," in which Ondrasik absolutely beats the tar out of his piano – in a good way.
At various points in the record, Ondrasik's voice evokes everyone from Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder to Dan Fogelberg, from Coldplay's Chris Martin to Todd Rundgren. The coexistence of these styles is a peaceful one, however, and the transition from track to track manages to be relatively smooth.
One of the new perks Ondrasik enjoyed while producing this album was a 30-piece string section, and he uses it tastefully in both "100 Years" and "The Devil In the Wishing Well," avoiding the trap of sugarcoating the production. The arrangements effectively build tension, in large part due to Ondrasik's creative chord voicing and progressions.
The album begins with the line "Got to get away from here," and that's exactly what Ondrasik has accomplished with The Battle For Everything. He has described the new record as his own private Quadrophenia, and it's clear that he thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity he received here.
Since the late 1970s, when the quality of Elton John's and Billy Joel's songwriting began a precipitous decline, there has been a dearth of quality in the piano-rock genre. Occasionally, artists like Marc Cohn and Ben Folds have stepped up to the forefront, but they have been unable to produce music that is consistently successful from either a critical or a commercial standpoint. Ondrasik has a wonderful opportunity to take over the spotlight on that stage. Let's hope that he continues to build on this creative success and expand his musical horizon.