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Drowned in Sound: The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: Don't You Fake It

Drowned in Sound
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: Don't You Fake It
by Kodi McKinney, DJ at U92

Even if you don't know what to call them, chances are you've seen them. Maybe you've noticed people at the mall with hair almost covering their eyes, or seen others at a concert looking awkward yet totally comfortable. They are called emo, the fans of a self-aware offshoot of punk. One band making waves within the scene right now is called the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus; their debut, Don't You Fake It, has been out since summer but is gaining enough momentum to demand a closer look.
It's unclear what their band name is supposed to mean, but it might imply the prerequisite heart on their sleeves. For the uninitiated, the biggest criticism of emo is its lyrical tendency to wallow in simplistic self-pity. Clever bands such as Fall Out Boy have avoided this somewhat with provocative writing chops, but there are far too many lesser groups with songwriting akin to high-school poetry. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus sadly (in every sense of the word) fall into the second category.
Even a cursory listen to Don't You Fake It makes this painfully obvious. Case in point: "Face Down" is the most hackneyed song about domestic violence that I've ever heard. I'd try to overlook it, but it's the lead single. "False Pretense" is average and a poor choice for the second single; the album opener "In Fate's Hands" is much more representative of their sound and perfectly catchy. However, it and other solid moments like the dubiously-titled "Misery Loves Its Company" get spoiled by stuff like "Your Guardian Angel," which has the most pitiful opening lyric imaginable: "When I see your smile, tears run down my face." The minute singer Ronnie Winter drops that bomb of a line over cliched acoustic guitar scraping, the song becomes a total loss.
This band has a lot of pop-punk influence and can sing solid harmonies, but that means nothing without good songs, which are few and far between on Don't You Fake It. Aside from what's been mentioned, there's some blatant filler here. It's not a good thing when the superior songs are just the least monotonous; for example, "Justify" only sticks out because it has an uncharacteristic arena-rock feel in spots and an unexpected programmed beat in the intro. Though the songs typically have serious energy behind them, they still need to be worth listening to.
That energy proves the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus to be a band that might be fun live but not special enough to carry a studio recording. The genre's trappings have been copied to death, and better bands have gone to great pains to escape them. In particular, My Chemical Romance made this readymade look positively sickly even before releasing The Black Parade. At least Don't You Fake It is somewhat fun if you don't listen too closely; that attribute will score them plenty of young fans but not a whole lot of loyalty.
Rating: 2 out of 5

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