Review Summary: Now all the critics wanna hit it + shit-can how we did it...The Drug in Me Is You
, Falling in Reverse
's debut, is only three and a half years old. In the short time since that album came out, I have come upon many, many reasons people seem to have for hating frontman Ronnie Radke and the music he puts out (since, in essence, Falling in Reverse is less of a band than it is a carefully crafted vehicle for keeping Radke's brand alive in rock music). To put this another way, despite the (extremely rare) flashes of genuine, innovative musicianship that flare up across Falling in Reverse's three album discography, this is simply not
one of those bands that could continue with another lead vocalist. *winks*
With this in mind, I do think most of Radke's harshest critics take the wrong approach to examining Falling in Reverse, and Just Like You
, which has been dubbed the spiritual successor to Escape the Fate
's 2006 debut Dying Is Your Latest Fashion
(hereinafter, "DILF"), presents an opportunity to level-set. DILF, oft-referenced in rose-tint as a source of nostalgia for those who were around to witness that particular album's chaotic aftermath, represents the origin of whatever credibility Radke has in this music scene, so calling reference to it so prominently (two songs on Just Like You
are "sequels" to songs on DILF^) is either a relatively serious reputational claim to stake, or it's just marketing bullshit.
By way of context: The Drug in Me Is You
is thematically an entire album (less a song or two) of Radke making fun of his shitty former bandmates and the vocalist who replaced him. When that began to get tiring, Fashionably Late
felt like an attempt to draw on the few non-ETF elements of the band's debut by doubling-down on the irreverence.
The kicker here is that really any of the band's albums are fine successors in their own right (because the standard isn't actually as high as we've been led to believe). Just like DILF, each of Falling in Reverse's three albums are mostly forgettable, save for a few tracks that somehow get it right. And, just like on DILF, when Radke and four-time collaborator Elvis "Dumervil" Baskette do get it right, the outcome is nailed into your skull so prominently that all of the extraneous, maybe even well-grounded reasons for hating this shit melt away:
"There's No Sympathy for the Dead"
"Raised by Wolves"
So where are these moments on Just Like You
? Lead single "God, If You Are Above…" is certainly the front-runner in my eyes. The song's fast pace provides the perfect showcase for Radke's vocal style, which feels very well-embedded here (among a ton of other noise layered on top of it). The value of a voice like his lies in its character, not its power. It's not one that stands well on its own, and frankly it doesn't need to; the best Falling in Reverse songs, with rare exception, are the ones where Ronnie sounds like he's struggling to keep up with the song's pace (the aforementioned "No Sympathy…" and "Raised by Wolves," along with the unabashedly fun "I'm Not a Vampire"), mainly because it showcases a range and cadence that ends up surprisingly effective. "Stay Away" and "Guillotine IV (The Final Chapter)" are both decent offerings in this respect, the harsh vocals on the latter notwithstanding. He's still not much of a screamer, which is why I kinda dug the rapping,^^ used here only in moderation (for an example, check out "Wait and See," a carbon-copy of "Alone" with a less-engaging lyrical themes).
The weakest songs on the album are, again, easily written-off as the band falling into familiar traps. "Sexy Drug" and "Just Like You" are both grating and embarrassing in the same way that "Bad Girls Club" and "Pick Up the Phone" were. "Brother," clearly a very personal exercise for Radke (or as personal as a song on this sort of release can be), falls flat in spectacular fashion. "Get Me Out" is... o.m.g., it's so bad lol.
Dying is Your Latest Fashion came out around eight and a half years ago. In the time since then, we've gotten six albums from an astonishing twenty-four (24!)^^^ different band members recording and releasing music under either Escape the Fate or Falling in Reverse. With the bands occupying this space constantly turning over (the names on the billing change but the Warped Tour venues stay the same) there's something to be said for notoriety. Personally, I find myself rooting for Radke. There is something compelling about the whole narrative of his career. I liked the catharsis underlying The Drug in Me is You
, and I can't not smirk when I hear the title track of Fashionably Late
. While it seems he has been burning through his DILF goodwill every day over the past three and a half years, I actually think he is doing something more important: He is fashioning himself into the "spiritual successor" of another polarizing, charismatic douchejuice frontman... one who similarly drew the ire of his critics and contemporaries alike, and one whose lyrics and delivery have been quoted for years, long after his listeners left behind the music that they dug in high school. He's basically Fred Durst for millennials.
"Guillotine IV (The Final Chapter)" is, as the title would suggest, the fourth "Guillotine" entry, with the preceding three appearing on Escape the Fate albums. "My Apocalypse II" appears on Just Like You
as a bonus track, and is a sequel to the song of the same name on Dying Is Your Latest Fashion
I would maintain that the best Radke rap happened on Deuce
's Nine Lives
("Nobody Likes Me")