The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – Lonely Road
Release Date: February 3, 2009
Record Label: EMI
There are few bands in the scene that get more shit than The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Likely victims of their own unexpected successes and some obvious PR missteps (ahem), most of this hatred seems a bit undeserved. Despite some (at times) embarrassingly simple lyrics and a tendency to retread familiar rock territory, there isn’t much to inspire true hate or disgust that legions of message board fanatics churn out without relent. At worst, TRJA can be called contrived and cookie cutter, yet I would rationally make the case that they are a rather competent pop rock act.
It seems safe to assume that very few people expected these guys to go platinum with the breakout success of “Face Down,” but afterwards, the band’s career arc sort of took on a life of it’s own. Such a meteoric rise must surely be staggering to comprehend by itself, and even more so when a group has to think about how to follow up that initial triumph.
On Lonely Road, the band’s latest effort, things do not get off to a good start. At all. “You Better Pray,” the record’s baffling choice for a first single is just downright horrible. And I don’t mean skip-the-track awful, but more like how-did-this-garbage-ever-get-approved/ what-were-they-thinking? terrible. Of course, this would be offensive enough if the track was a b-side for shit’s sake, but the single? Come on. The tune conjures up the worst of Hinder, Nickelback, and Buckcherry in supreme cock-rock, bro-down fashion, and is easily the worst song the band has ever written. However, if you get past that drivel with your ears intact, the rest of the record is a vast improvement, and is actually quite rewarding in spots. It is easy to say that as a whole, Lonely Road has a lot less “edge” than Don’t You Fake It, which might upset some, but the result is not entirely unpalatable.
“No Spell” starts off with an almost uncharacteristic toe-tapping bounce and synth fuzz, and tosses in a predictably catchy chorus, while “Pen and Paper” is much more by-the-numbers RJA pop-rock fare (and should have unquestionably been the first single). “Represent” is a much softer, slower cut that yields well to emotive vocal delivery from Ronnie Winter, and despite being a little overwrought and overproduced, it will surely strike a chord with mainstream-minded fans. The band later shows its penchant for catchy, radio-ready anthems with the sugary “Step Right Up,” which while generic, is undeniably infectious and enjoyable. And while the “ooh’s” and thickly-slathered strings of “Believe” take the cheese factor almost off the charts, Winters’ vocals do sound pretty remarkable when he breaks into the upper end of his range.
While Lonely Road does have its share of bright spots, the album does end in a pretty garish skid. With the title track sounding like some awkward homage to the classic rock, as it stumbles to create some semblance of majesty, the finished product is amateurish and painful to behold, especially in the outro (cringes for everyone!). The same goes for the sloppy “Senioritis,” which is barely saved by a catchy hook, and ridiculous theatrics of “Godspeed,” which sounds like a cheeseball ode that would be right at home in a Michael Bay film. Yikes.
In the end, Lonely Road is a pretty mixed bag. It is irrational for haters to say that the record is terrible, and has no saving graces. Sure, Howard Benson’s production pretty much neuters all the grit and angst that was ever-present on Don’t You Fake It, but the high level of polish does give rise to some easily accessible (albeit forgettable) Top 40-type pop cuts. Lonely Road is far, far, far from perfect, and people will likely continue to shit all over the band and record with reckless abandon, but a bit of honesty tells you this is certainly decent for what it is.
What I love about this site most is that there is never any bias in the reviews. From what I know, doesn't Ronnie have an exclusive blog here? Yet here's a review honest as any other letting everyone on here know exactly how the product is. No bullshit, nothing to cover up despite the fact the lead singer contributes here. It's fair, and it's great to see.
Sorry to hear about the album though, I was hoping to like this one more. The single though, sounded exactly as you described it. Unfortunate.