In the early 2000s, pop punk reigned supreme with a tenacious force.
Sum-41 spun their metal-inflicted jams of growing pains, whilst New Found Glory brought mosh-core to the mainstream with pummeling riffs and the catchiest choruses imaginable. blink-182 were the undisputed kings of the radio and Simple Plan oozed with high-school love-sickness that still to this day has the ability to induce a spontaneous acne breakout.
MTV flogged the spiky-haired crews to no end – tales of failed romances and days filled skateboarding was a cultural phenomenon that elicits the utmost nostalgia to this day for those who came of age during the time.
However, there was one band who seemed to have different matters on their mind.
Hailing from Savannah, Georgia, Squad Five-O seemed to break the paradigm of youthful jubilance set by their peers. Actively releasing music between 1997 and 2006, it’s pretty understandable if you consider yourself to be a total pop punk pundit without ever having heard of them.
I came across the band after a serious Spotify rabbit-hole discovery session. It started at Fenix TX (if you, like are emotionally and socially stunted from how much pop punk you’ve consumed over time, I’m sure you remember this Mark Hoppus-produced gem) and through a wealth of cargo-short wearing dude-bros, I eventually stumbled upon Squad Five-O.
With only 1,172 monthly listeners, they didn’t seem to set themselves apart from their contemporaries, until I scrolled towards their full-length Bombs Over Broadway, released in the year 2000.
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I usually think 90% of conspiracy theories are total hogwash, but I couldn’t help but channel Tom DeLonge and take my skeptic hat off for just a second.
After 9/11, Jimmy Eat World’s seminal Bleed American was renamed to be a self-titled release, and System Of A Down’s ‘Chop Suey’ was placed under the microscope for its vivid lyrics, but this seemed a little too eerie.
Aside from the warplanes flying over two very similarly sized buildings in central New York plastered across the cover of the album, the lyrics of the title track are as follows:
“Midnight, New York City. Broadway, going up in flames. Ground zero, big city. Big Apple swallowed by the flames. Bombs away, we never saw it coming. Bombs away, til the bombs, started falling.”
Check out the song below:
Squad Five-O – ‘Bombs Over Broadway’
Musically, the track harkens towards the sounds of acts like the Bouncing Souls and even the Replacements, combined with a hefty dose of late-80s glam rock edge, pulled straight from the songwriting rule book of Poison and Whitesnake.
The band were signed to famed Christian rock record label Tooth & Nail at the time, previously home to artists like MxPx, P.O.D, and The Juliana Theory. The label changing the album cover to depict an image of just the band members. It’s also noted that the band stopped playing the track live after the attacks, however slowly incorporated the song again as part of their encore.
Other tracks on the album include ‘Apocalypse Now’, ‘Renegade’, ‘Lost Youth’ and ‘Don’t Look Back’, which also feature some seriously prophetic lyrics.
“The sky is falling, they say it’s the end, I turn the knobs on my amp up to ten,” are a few words of wisdom spat in ‘Apocalypse Now’.
In an interview conducted before Bombs Over Broadway was released, guitarist Adam Garbinski voiced the band’s passion for airing social issues within their music.
“I’ve been most effected when bands speak about social issues. Bands like Crashdog and Strongarm have always been inspiring to hear speak. I think some writers have a gift for making spiritual issues translate into words.
“Anyone can say how they feel, but sometimes a band will get me fired up spiritually,” he added. “But sometimes a band can be saying things that are true, but it doesn’t affect me the same way. It’ll kind of be like, ‘Yeah, I agree, that’s great’ but it doesn’t really move you.
“Hopefully, kids that listen to us and come to our shows see the reality of our love for God, and how serious we take it. It’s not something that we package to sell to them or things we say so they feel good about buying our records. It’s a faith that can save them if they accept it, not a fad or a trend.”
The band’s current Instagram page doesn’t reveal too much. Its content mostly involves low-quality images of the band’s most recent shows and some off-kilter meme action. Squad Five-O did reflect on Bombs with a post in October 2017, posting the album’s cover with the hashtag #prophecy.
View this post on Instagram
It wasn’t the first time Squad Five-O were embroiled in a little bit of controversy. Their 1997 release What I Believe featured a track called ‘Our State Flag Sucks’, calling out the Georgia state flag for being a symbol of hate due to its likeness to the Confederate flag.
The turn of the century was undeniably a time of unrest for the US. Citizens were riddled with distrust towards the tail-end of the Clinton Presidency and a sense of impending doom prevailed. Squad Five-O seem to have tapped into the psyche of the nation incredibly well.
In a 2004 interview, vocalist Jeff Fortson noted how he admired classic punk acts like The Clash in their ability to air the concerns of the public.
“We have all been misunderstood at one time or another I suppose but I like a little more meat on the bones there so we tried to make an album that touched on all the things that we as a band think about, not just on the personal level but also on the political and social and spiritual level you know?
Not necessarily taking a slant on those things but just putting it out there for people to decide on whatever issue we are singing about, whether it’s a spiritual issue or political issue or whatever.
Hopefully we don’t slant it too much but instead, just present it as a really human or a really personal look at what’s going on in the world or what’s going on in the government or anything like that. I think the things that I love about my favourite bands, like The Clash or whatever, The Clash never tells you what to believe, at least not as I take it, they just tell you to believe and to be involved and to be active and to not just sit idly by.”
Watch: Squad Five-O perform ‘Bombs Over Broadway’ live in 2017
“I remember owning the album in 2000. The picture on the CD booklet was pretty accurate (take a look at the cd cover) for the insane tragedy which took place in NYC the very next year. Eerily prophetic!!!,” said one commenter on the video above, shot at one of the band’s comeback shows in 2017.
Although the band made a small comeback in 2012, it seems as though not much is happening in the Squad Five-O camp these days. In 2018, the band uploaded a one-second teaser of music to Instagram, hinting that they were working on a follow up to 2004’s Late News Breaking.
View this post on Instagram
We’ll never truly know the motive behind Squad Five-O’s Bombs Over Broadway, but in all honestly – it’s a pretty dang rockin’ album. I highly recommend a Spotify deep dive and you never know, you really could unveil another ground-breaking conspiracy, or more importantly, find your new favourite band.