“Handlebars” – Flobots
Some songs just sound important the second they come on, and “Handlebars” by Flobots is one of these songs.
Flobots was formed in Denver, Colorado in 2000, but has changed their group drastically since then. The band (as heard on “Handlebars”) is comprised of MC Jamie Laurie, MC, Brer Rabbit, (Jonny 5) violist Mackenzie Gault, bassist Jesse Walker, guitarist Andy Guerrero (from funk band Bop Skizzum), trumpet player Joe Ferrone (also from Bop Skizzum), and drummer Kenny Ortiz. This eclectic mix of hip-hop style MC’s, hard rocking guitarist, and classical musicians allows the band to cover and extremely broad range of styles and emotions.
In 2007 Flobots released Fight With Tools, which was not immediately popular. However, after entering “Handlebars” in a competition held by a Denver radio station the song began its rise to fame, first taking the Denver area by storm and then the US Modern Rock scene, rising as high as #3 on the Mod-Rock charts and reaching #37 on the open US chart.
The song bleeds emotion, and its progression from beginning to end is a roller coaster ride. Opening with the rough plucking of strings, we can almost sense the song will be taking us to a dark place. We move from childhood naivete and potential to adulthood, and finally to a big brother society driven by a young man who has lost sight of what is important and has become drunk with power. The instruments slowly rise in intensity as the story develops, the vocals morph from a soothing storyteller to a screaming rebel leader, and as the guitars crescendo we can feel the anger and hope of our story’s rebellion. In both cases this song shows us the extraordinary potential of youth.
I have moved between two views of this song. One interpretation in my mind is a more literal interpretation of the lyrics representing the choices that we make between corporate, power driven life and a values driven lifestyle. However I can also see the two characters representing the two paths of modern nations. One path, in which we are using technology to dominate our surroundings and obtain power, and the other path in which we use technology to connect and unite us. In either case the metaphor of riding with “no handlebars” applies, we are so confident in our ability to control our surroundings and our futures that we are tempted to live, or ride, irresponsibly… with no handlebars. I could discuss this metaphor for hours, but I’ll allow your mind to extrapolate. Please feel free to express your thoughts in the comment section below!
When my friend Greg showed me this song a few years back I knew from the moment it came on I wouldn’t forget it, and I haven’t.