Sound — 5
Stumbling their way onto stage after three subsequent failures, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus are back for more with their 10th anniversary EP, "Et Tu, Brute?" This is especially amusing considering the supposed historical context of the phrase, being known as the dying words of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's titular play. Whether or not RJA reckon themselves a decaying force of previous greatness, it certainly fits the bill for a band with an arguably weak discography to boast famous last words for an anniversary release. Despite that the record opens with a brooding bass note, the real first impression comes from the song's opening line: "Let's take it back to days when we still were the crazy ones." It seems the band remembers its previous fame as greater than it really was. From there, it's the same old, same old. A few thankful changes have been made: the same imitation hardcore of "Hell Or High Water" doesn't rear its ugly head too often. Actually, the band seems to take a step back into the territory of its first couple of releases, with "Cards" and "Remember Me" hearkening to their self-titled debut. It's comfortable, easy to digest, and a relief after "Am I The Enemy"'s dull excess. Whether or not this was intentional is up to the listener, but at the very least, the throwbacks to mid-2000s emo will be a relief to any who enjoyed "Don't You Fake It" and especially the debut. However, the nostalgia (oh, and they do so love to remind listeners of how they're ten whole years old) wears out quickly and, as is RJA tradition, bizarre and poorly-executed elements are thrown in out of nowhere. Even more so than on 2009's "Lonely Road," the guitars are overblown and solos break out in places any casual rock fan would expect from the most cliche of their favorite tunes. Even more than pretentious than the EP's opening lyric are some of the choices made in constructing these songs. The industrial-laden "Chariot," for example, sure seems eager to convince itself of its own prowess, despite being incredibly safe. "Chariot" perfectly continues another RJA tradition: inflated closing numbers, this time with a laughable fade-out. Among the droning chords of RJA's drop-C fancy and striking hesitance with risk-taking stands the track list itself. Whatever the quality of each cut, there seems to be at least one representing each era of the band's career. With six total, it doesn't seem entirely impossible that "Remember Me" gives a nod to the pop-punk debut, "Cards" recalls "Don't You Fake It," and so forth. Even "Hell Or High Water" (God forbid) gets some love with "Wide Is The Gate." Granted, if any of these is an indicator of what's to come, audiences will likely continue to ignore them. After ten years, the only thing The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus seems to have learned is how to milk its own success. Unfortunately, that fact doesn't come with the consciousness of never having been as grand as they seem to think. "Et Tu, Brute?" is as musically shallow as "Lonely Road" and as instrumentally dull as "Am I The Enemy." The bizarre placement of solos in the middle of "You Can't Trust Anyone These Days" and "Wide Is The Gate" apparently attempts to garner respect from lovers of post-hardcore and even hard rock. It's just too much. Coupled with apparent reminiscence of former glory, "Et Tu" feels less like a step forward than a ridiculous celebration of itself. The result is a sad would-be "best of" that escapes the public eye. While the band may have debuted with some potential, they've now beat the same horse with enough frequency that it would take a miracle to reach the long-dead success of "Face Down."
Lyrics — 3
Coming straight from the heart of the emo (sorry, screamo) scene, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus pens its lyrics with as much earnestness as they can muster. Let the cringe begin. Reflecting the same shortcomings of countless acts in the genre, "Et Tu, Brute?" comes off as an alternation between self-adoring and whiny. "I've had these problems for some time now/There's something very wrong" is hardly a classic, and the earlier excerpt from "The Crazy Ones" is hilariously vain. Some bits come off as just out of place, swapping purpose for melodrama: "See the flames consume you/Shades of red and blue in turn" bursts in the midst of a pretty light pop-punk track. The weakest moments are in "Chariot," perhaps due to singer Ronnie Winter's abominable performance highlighting the sniveling nature of the lyrics: "She worked every single day of the week... On that hospital bed, she waits to die alone." "Et Tu, Brute?" has all of RJA's lyrical nuances being the lack thereof. There is neither an ounce of humor nor humility. If anything, the finale's religious imagery smugly panders to the Christian radio audience found during the run of "Am I The Enemy." Ronnie Winter, as mentioned, makes lines that might escape notice with other performance blatantly irritating. He cripples even the strongest musical moments. His tenor whine, interwoven with the occasional pitchy scream, sounds out of place throughout the record; "Cards" opens with instrumentation initially more akin to Guns N' Roses than emo-pop, but Winter does his best to depress listeners into suspending disbelief. When he recalls "how it felt when everything was fun" (try not to giggle at the line itself), one wonders when exactly that may have been, since he sounds miserable 99% of the time his mouth is open. The only reason for which they would "be remembered as the crazy ones" is for thinking anyone remembers anything about them, yet Winter sings it as though it's Newton's Fourth. While there were days in which it wasn't difficult to get away with that kind of droning, the 2000s are over. Oblivious to the fact, Winter is yet another component keeping The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus steeped firmly in an extinct genre.
Overall Impression — 3
"Et Tu, Brute?" does less for its makers than against. It adds yet another mediocre piece to an increasingly ugly discography, it puts more between their current state and the glory days (whatever those were), and it reminds audiences that the emo band with a ridiculous name is still in high school. The spurts of bliss is nostalgic cuts is overshadowed by thinly-veiled emo pop and melodramatic post-hardcore. For as helpful as a compilation-style EP can be to boost morale, the band had already tried and failed with "Hell Or High Water." "Et Tu" is no different, trying to summarize just how great they think they are in six short-sighted songs and once again falling short. It's remarkably ironic that a band called The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus takes itself as seriously as Morrissey, and yet here they are. Pass.