The rock band Fuel is the subject of an FCC investigation after lead singer Brett Scallions dropped the "F-Bomb" at an inaugural concert for kids last week. But band members say that they're not on trial for swearing, but for their outspoken views on the controversial theory of evolution.
Fuel's album "Natural Selection" pays tribute to Darwin
By Deanna Swift
HARRISBURG, PA—Just minutes after Brett Scallions, lead singer of the rock band Fuel, took the stage at last week's "America's Future Rocks Today" concert, he made a statement that could alter the band's future for ever: "welcome to the greatest $%#&-ing country in the world!"
While displays of profanity-laced patriotism may have been acceptable before 9/11, they're officially out of fashion these days. Before the stage had even been dismantled, the Federal Communications Commission had begun a probe into the latest "F-Bomb" incident to hit the country, despite the fact that the concert wasn't televised.
It remains unclear what sanction Fuel and its lead singer may face, but that they will face some punishment is a near certainty; the FCC has already ruled that the "F-word" is indecent and profane, regardless of whether used as an adjective, adverb, or gerund.
Just a theory
But members of the band say that they're being targeted, not for Scallion's expletive-laced greeting, but for another reason: Fuel's outspoken defense of the controversial theory of evolution.
Last year, Fuel released its third album, a tribute to Charles Darwin, called, appropriately "Natural Selection." With its trademark blend of heavy guitar, precise rhythms, and strong melodies, Fuel pays homage to the author of The Origin of Species in songs like "Die Like This" (audio sample), a heavy metal account of what happens when a species fails to adapt.
Band members attribute the innovative concept album to Carl Bell, Fuel's guitarist and a life-long proponent of evolution. "I think you can hear Carl's fixation on these songs come through in different ways. It gives the whole album a really dark tone," observes drummer Kevin Miller on the band's website. "In terms of lyrics and chord structures, 'Natural Selection' isn't as heavy as our other albums, but it's just as dark, if not darker than anything we've done."
When Fuel was recording "Natural Selection," band members likely had no idea that the subject of evolution was about to become the controversial topic of the year. While the controversy may have helped boost album sales among Darwinians, Fuel's pro-evolution stance has won them few fans in central Pennsylvania, home not just to the four rock and rollers, but to an incendiary debate over whether evolution should be taught in biology classes.
Just days before Fuel would take the stage at the "America's Future Rocks Today" concert, the school board in Dover, PA, south of Harrisburg, had an administrator read a one-minute statement to ninth graders in biology class saying evolution is not fact and offering a different approach called "intelligent design." In classes at Dover Area High School where teachers refused to read the statement, the school district's assistant superintendent read it instead.
On its most recent tour, Fuel pointedly avoided Dover, choosing to perform instead in Allentown, PA, where evolution remains part of the traditional biology curriculum. The band has not yet said whether it will continue to shun Dover in future tours.
Since the infamous Super Bowl half-time fiasco of 2004, the FCC has cracked down on entertainers that use profanity or engage in suggestive behavior. In recent months, the FCC has fined artists including Bono, who let the "f-word" slip during an awards ceremony, and even refused to allow the war-time epic "Saving Private Ryan" to air after pro-family groups expressed concern that the movie contained 21 utterances of the "f-word."
FCC officials aren't commenting on whether the investigation of Fuel is related to its aggressively pro-evolution stance. FCC Chairman Michael Powell announced last week that he is resigning and will leave the position he’s held for four years in March. Mr. Powell’s departure is not believed to be connected to the Fuel controversy.
Deanna Swift can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org