Sound: Over the past several years, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has been known for one thing: "Face Down". The song, which appeared on their debut album "Don't You Fake It" and addressed domestic violence, became one of the few rock songs with screaming vocals to make the Top 40 charts. With the success of that song, "DYFI" went triple-platinum. Their next album, "Lonely Road", which was produced by Howard Benson, was a misguided attempt to repeat the success of their first album. "LR" was a slick, poppy rock record with studio-enhanced guitars and treated vocals. With that mistep, RJA fell off the map for a couple of years, before emerging with "The Hell Or Highwater" EP in 2010. The EP returned to their original post-hardcore sound, and served as a preview for their newest album, "Am I The Enemy?", which I am here to review.
"Am I The Enemy?" is RJA's first self-released album, after the band parted ways with Virgin Records after a nasty dispute over the label's handling of "Lonely Road". Right away, the first single "Reap" takes the music industry to task and rips it a new one. "Am I The Enemy?" is no repeat of "Lonely Road", that's for sure. RJA has returned to the post-hardcore sound that won them acclaim initially. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus has a sound that mirrors bands like The Used and Madina Lake. All three bands are considered post-hardcore, but I mostly consider them alternative rock bands since they don't use screaming vocals much and their sounds have a heavier feel than other "screamo" bands. Throughout "AITE?", RJA churn out catchy riffs and hooks mixed in with electronica sounds (just a minor touch added by producer John Feldmann). // 8
Lyrics: No matter the musical sound behind him, vocalist Ronnie Winter has always been the strongpoint of RJA. His voice, which is less emo whine and more rock croon, carries each song with conviction. Winter is famous for writing lyrics about suicide prevention et al. But on "Am I The Enemy?" he sings about love on "Dive Too Deep" (but resists turning the ballad into a overblown pop song), and offers hope on the aptly named "Don't Lose Hope". A lot of the songs on this album "Reap", "Fall From Grace", etc) seem to address RJA's label troubles and the lineup changes they've endured. Overall, solid stuff. // 7
Overall Impression: I made the comparisions to The Used & Madina Lake, and they are warranted to me. RJA stands apart though for writing post-hardcore inflected alternative rock songs that are more mature than that of their kin. Their lyrics go beyond emotic love cliches and carry messages of empowerment, fighting back, and hope. Simply put, RJA is back from their dark period and have come out swinging. // 8