Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – Am I The Enemy (2011)

Posted: August 29, 2011 in Music

The fact that we are even able to review the third album from Florida’s Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (out August 30, 2011) comes as a bit of a surprise. After an outstanding debut album (2006’s Don’t You Fake It) and a mediocre second album (2008’s Lonely Road,) the band seemed to have lost all of its momentum due in part to lack of support from their label at the time, Virgin Records. So much so, that the band left the label in early 2010 in search of greener pastures through independent label Collective Sounds.

On top of the label switch, the band hired Goldfinger frontman and production guru John Feldmann to produce the new album – Am I The Enemy – in an effort to reignite the band that was one of music’s brightest hopes just five short years ago.

Leaving a major label is fine (albeit risky), and hiring a new producer was a good sign – but losing 40% of your band the month before the make-or-break release of your career might be a little too much to overcome. It was announced in July that both guitarists Duke Kitchens and Matt Carter had quit the band for “personal reasons,” but the band insisted on pushing forward with the release and subsequent tour with new guitarists on board.

I had the opportunity to see the band perform live a couple of days ago, and I’ll just say that the new chemistry is still a work in progress. But we are not here to talk about the live aspect of this band. We are here to discuss the new release, so let’s get to it.

Lead singer/songwriter Ronnie Winter’s auto-tuned vocals begin the album, and we’re already off to a less-than-auspicious start. I’ve always hated auto-tune. If you can’t carry the proper pitch, you really shouldn’t be in music to begin with. Based on earlier albums, I know Winter can sing, so I’m going to put this on Feldmann (who LOVES auto-tune) and leave it at that. The song itself – “Salvation” – isn’t bad. With an anthem-styled sing-a-long and arm-waving “whoas” along the way, it is built for success and will probably find it. I found it a bit plastic and unoriginal, but the fans will love it.


One of the better tracks of the album is “Reap,” a highly energized stomp that adds some cool guitar effects along the way. It opens ferociously, calms a bit through the chorus, and stomps out in grand style at the end. Currently released to rock radio, the success of this single will dictate the success of this album, and so far it is getting some strong attention.

“Wake Me Up” is another track that obviously got a fair amount of treatment post-tracking. It’s clean, precise, and buffed to ultimate levels of shine. It also may be the worst song ever written by RJA. With such mind-numbing lyrics as “There’s no shame in trying – Because we’re already dying”, I can’t help but wonder where the strong content of songs past has disappeared to.

The album’s title track packs a little more punch from the guitars and drums, but again lacks any type of lyrical content worth caring about. I’m not sure why the band carries two guitarists, as – so far – one would have sufficed. There really isn’t any layering or complex riffing going on yet, and it honestly just sounds like one. While the song does have its moments, it is inevitably just as forgettable as much of the rest of the album.

“Dreams” starts off heavier than anything on the album, but the hope quickly fades into another mid-tempo, over-produced three minutes of ambiguity. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus was once an amazing rock band, but I can neither define nor properly explain what is happening here. It’s a mash-up of bad ideas, mechanical tracking, and studio tricks that defies logic, especially for an album that needed to be spot-on.

Some good songwriting is in place for “Dive To Deep,” and the band somehow got it past Feldmann’s labored fingers, as it maintains at least a hint of decent balance throughout. The music is personal and pretty, and the levels are actually right here. It’s a softer ballad, which isn’t the band’s strongest suit – but here it actually stands out as something pretty genuine.

Another potential radio hit is “Where Are The Heroes,” which takes a bombastic approach, and a much heavier angle. Feldmann lent a hand in the writing on this one, which actually helped change it up a bit. It’s not an amazing track, but in a playlist of mostly misses, this one will at least have me coming back for multiple listens.

“Angel In Disguise” is built around a soft guitar rhythm, reminiscent of a U2 or Angels and Airwaves track, and uses bricks of hit singles past to build a nice wall of sound around some decent lyrics – which all gets torn to the ground by an off-key outro and a cough. Even when something was done right, the band finds a way to personalize it by, unfortunately, ruining it.

I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit when reading the title of the next track – “Don’t Lose Hope.” I pretty much had by this point, but the track did have a pretty solid bass line through it, so it wasn’t a total loss. It is another mid-tempo rocker that sounded a lot like – well – a few of the other below par tracks on this release.

“Fall From Grace” opens with much harsher vocals (which had been missing throughout most of the album) and the return was welcome. Unfortunately, they are minimized as the song continues, which instead focus on the guitars and drums and structure of it all. This one also didn’t miss by much.

Included on this album, for some reason, is the song “Choke” – which was originally released on an EP last year titled Hell Or High Water. I thought it was a strong song then, and actually is the strongest track on this full length – which speaks loudly of just how mediocre Am I The Enemy is.

In summary, I mentioned before how necessary it was for Red Jumpsuit Apparatus to release a definitive album this time around, and this was – but not for the right reason. Instead of seeing how many jump shots they could make in a row, the band lazily tossed up a bunch of air balls, with a few grazing the rim and one or two finding the net on a lucky bounce or two.

It was a time for the band to reclaim their fanbase and rock them so hard they would have no choice but to rise up and shake their fists. Instead, I think a lot of them – like me – will just be shaking their heads…

4/10

Tracklist:
1. Salvation
2. Reap
3. Wake Me Up
4. Am I The Enemy
5. Dreams
6. Dive Too Deep
7. Where Are The Heroes
8. Angel In Disguise
9. Dont Lose Hope
10. Fall From Grace
11. Choke
12. Reap (Radio Edit)

Buy at Amazon

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