Handlebars (song)

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"Handlebars"
Single by Flobots
from the album Fight with Tools
Released April 11, 2008 (United States)
August 25, 2008 (United Kingdom)
Format Compact Disc, 7", digital download
Recorded 2005
Genre Alternative hip hop, rap rock
Length 3:27
Label Universal Republic
Writer(s) Jamie Laurie
Flobots singles chronology
- "Handlebars"
(2008)
"Rise"
(2008)

"Handlebars" is a song by Flobots. It was released as the first single from their debut album, Fight with Tools, and is the group's largest success, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks.

Background[edit]

"Handlebars" was written and recorded in 2005, it was originally recorded for their first EP, Flobots Present...Platypus, but was re-released on Fight with Tools two years later which then led to its single release one year after the release of Fight with Tools.

Theme[edit]

Jamie Laurie stated that the song "is about the idea that we have so much incredible potential as human beings to be destructive or to be creative." "And it's tragic to me that the appetite for military innovation is endless, but when it comes to taking on a project like ending world hunger, it's seen as outlandish. It's not treated with the same seriousness. [...] at the same time, I knew there were people at that moment who were being bombed by our own country. And I thought that was incredibly powerful." It is the contrast between these "little moments of creativity, these bursts of innovation," and the way these ideas are put to use "to oppress and destroy people" that the singer feels is both "beautiful and tragic at the same time."[1]

Music video[edit]

The video for the song is animated. It starts out lighthearted, showing two young friends sitting on a hill looking over a city. Prominent in the city is a crystalline tower with part of its framework showing. The friends ride their bikes down the hill without their hands on the handlebars, while one smiles widely. They arrive at a sign that points in two directions, one labeled with a corporate-looking symbol, and the other labeled by a dove. They hug and head their separate ways, the one who originally smiled taking the path of the dove.

The next part of the song centers on the friend who went the way of the dove. He walks along a cracked sidewalk and sees a chalk drawing depicting the first scene of the video: two children on bicycles with their arms in the air, riding down a hill next to a city. He picks up an apple off of the ground and puts it back in its barrel, symbolizing him putting the world back together. He picks up his phone and sees the corporate friend's face. Here the perspective switches to the other friend, and we see him talking to the peaceful friend on the phone.

The corporate friend hangs up and walks down the street. He lists his accomplishments and they are shown in the video before he stops in front of the same tower that appeared in the beginning of the video. He looks up at it. In the next scene he is completing a transaction with a man in a board room. A graph, clearly of profits, zigzags up a board with the corporate logo on it before ending in what looks like a spatter of blood. The camera zooms out and we see that he was inside the tower. He then gives a speech behind a podium which is broadcast on television. The background changes from the original corporate image into two American flags. The other friend sees it and shakes his head disappointedly.

The scene then cuts to the world being more bleak and oppressive, with security cameras and smokestacks, emblazoned with the corporate logo, spewing toxic fumes into the air. A scene features the dove being killed by a hawk, and a fighter jet soars overhead.

In the next sequence, the previously peaceful friend begins rallying a crowd of oppressed-looking people. We see a man wearing a bandana spray an X over a poster with a picture of the now-dictator-like friend on it, and then the word "LIAR" below that. We then see a crowd of people, led by the rebellious friend, advancing on the tower. They are stopped by a line of heavily armed riot-control officers, with shields displaying a fist and submachine guns, who proceed to kill the entire crowd. The bandana wearing man is killed first by a sniper, following many more deaths. The corporate friend looks on in horror as he sees his friend shot down dead and lying on the floor.

The video ends with a flashback of the two friends pedaling off riding with no handlebars crisscrossing into a bright light.

Several times in the video, the dove as a symbol is destroyed. Once an actual dove is killed by a hawk. The second time a wall with a dove painted on it, located next to a billboard displaying the corporate symbol and a cityscape again featuring the tower, is destroyed by a wrecking ball. In addition, we see a hawk fly over the head of the corporate friend when he is walking down the street.

Another reference made within the video is to Che Guevara, an iconic revolutionist. This can be seen when the oppressed friend is rallying a crowd, an image of Guevara's face appears on an overweight man's yellow t-shirt.

Arguably, there is also a reference to Bloody Sunday when the peaceful protesters are marching. They are gunned down by guards in a similar fashion as to that of the marchers in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Bloody Sunday in 1905. Another reference is seen during the massacre seen of a flashing image similar to that which represented the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. The image particular to the iconic image of Satar Jabar.

Chart performance[edit]

On May 17, 2008, the song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks.[2] Fueled by radio airplay, including six straight weeks at the top of KROQ's most played list, it was the first single since Semisonic's "Closing Time" to chart in the top ten so quickly.[3]

It has had similar success on the digital landscape, having over 16,500,000 total plays on the band's MySpace.com page and over a substantial 17 million views on YouTube.[4][5] Digital download purchases have placed the song at #4 on certain rap and hip-hop charts on Amazon.com.[6]

"Handlebars" has also performed well on the Billboard charts. Peaking at number three on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, number twenty-two on the Hot Digital Songs chart, number thirty-five on the Pop 100 chart, number thirty-seven on the Hot 100 chart, number sixty-three on the Canadian Hot 100[2]

On September 7, 2008, the song entered the charts in the United Kingdom at #35 on downloads alone and peaked at #14.

Chart (2008) Peak
position
Canada (Canadian Hot 100) 63
New Zealand Singles Chart 26
UK Singles Chart 14
US Billboard Hot 100 37
US Pop Songs (Billboard) 30
US Alternative Songs (Billboard) 3

Track listing[edit]

Compact Disc
  1. "Handlebars" - 3:27
  2. "Rise" - 4:10
7" vinyl
  1. "Handlebars" - 3:27
  2. "Handlebars" (DJ Shadow Remix) - 4:03

Personnel[edit]

Flobots
  • Jamie "Jonny 5" Laurie – vocals
  • Brer Rabbit – vocals
  • Jesse Walker – electric bass
  • Andy "Rok" Guerrero – guitar
  • Mackenzie Roberts – viola
  • Kenny Ortiz – drums
Guest musicians
  • Joe Ferrone – trumpet

References[edit]

  1. ^ Montgomery, James (2008-05-05). "Flobots Fight To Make The World A Better Place - News Story". news. MTV. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  2. ^ a b "Billboard.com - Artist Chart History - The Flobots". Chart History. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  3. ^ "Flobots Celebrate Kick Off of Debut Album Fight with Tools with Outdoor Hollywood Live Performance/In-Store". Retrieved May 22, 2008. 
  4. ^ "MySpace.com - FLOBOTS - Denver, Colorado - Hip Hop / Progressive / Classical - www.myspace.com/flobots". Retrieved May 22, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Flobots - Handlebars". Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Product Details" (Product sales page). Retrieved 2008-05-23. Scroll to see sales information.

External links[edit]