Review Summary: What used to be just kills me
The breakup of Get Scared hasn't stopped Johnny Braddock from devoting free time to non-musical areas of his life. In fact, it made him quite the opposite of free; right as the group went on what was initially a hiatus, Braddock went right to work on a solo project because the man is just that damn passionate
about making music—and now that his solo debut (under the Victims Aren't We All
moniker) has been unleashed upon the world, that passion has paid off even more: Ugly
is a monstorous 13-track collection that absolutely bludgeons
you with what it has to offer, and accomplishes nearly everything it sets out to do exceptionally well.
One of the strongest points of Ugly
is the musicianship, as Braddock steps out of the confines of lead guitarist and backing vocalist insanely well; he plays every single instrument on the album, in fact. At some points it actually has glimmers of brilliance that surpass even Get Scared's last hurrah The Dead Days
; the riffs are not the most innovative guitar playing in rock, but they fit so well with what the album is going for it's easier to overlook. The drumming is surprisingly stellar considering Braddock has never handled drum duties on an album before, while his first effort on bass since Best Kind of Mess
proves that even after nearly ten years away he didn't lose his touch. Lyrically, Ugly
is certainly not as dark as The Dead Days
, as the breakup of Braddock's old band is the dominant theme (while The Dead Days
dealt with...y'know, coming to terms with dying); but it's pretty obvious that everything surrounding Get Scared's demise has been a whirlwind for him: Lead single "Family Values" is basically a sung speech about how much the band has been torn apart due to all the infighting within (which has been hinted at by both Braddock and bandmate Nicholas Matthews), "Make Me Sick" is Braddock both angry towards Matthews for his drug problems while also lamenting the depressing state he's in due to said addictions, and "In My Head" bluntly states that he misses Get Scared and wishes things had gone different for them:
"You know I always gave
And you just take away
I'm sick of everything I want fighting against the grain
It's just so sickening
That none of you can see
I'm sick of all the endless struggle and it's not worth the pain"
"I can't stand to watch you throw it all away
You know it's coming to
You know it's coming to an end, now say goodbye
I never wanted you, you're just a waste of my time"
-Make Me Sick
"I don't want to feel that way again
And I can't decide where to begin
I don't want to be filled with regret
Well, maybe it's all in my head
I can take a step back to reflect
We can find out if I'm innocent
I've been tracing back every word I've said
Well, maybe I just miss my friends"
-In My Mind
While some of the lyrics might be questionable or just downright cheesy, they get Braddock's point across very well and aren't absurdly
cheesy. His vocals sound freakishly similar to those of Matthews to the point where he could have just replaced him as Get Scared's singer and there wouldn't have really been an issue musically. This is the consistent sound throughout the 41-minute runtime of Ugly
; fortunately however the songs are also able to stand-out on their own with unique aspects sprinkled throughout each individual track: "Failure" contains some wonderful atmospheric ambience (especially for a ballad), "Draw The Line" features a shockingly awesome (and long) guitar solo, while "You're Not Ready" closes out the album on a sad note as Braddock expresses regret that Get Scared was never able to get any proper closure before they cut the life support off, fading into the void as he sings "Wait, don't leave without saying goodbye, without saying goodbye..."
Unfortunately, Braddock hasn't just failed to reach the cusps of greatness alone on Ugly
with just the lyricism, but with the production as well. Ugly
is his first ever production endeavor, and there's unfortunately quite a lot of issues lying within—case in point: "Family Values" had its mix re-done for the album's release because the single's production was just that bad
. He puts a little too much emphasis on guitar and vocals while leaving the bass in the dust, as is the sin of virtually every career scenecore producer; the drums are audible but are never brought to the forefront of the mix so they can get their time to shine (which is a shame considering his talent with both instruments), and it generally comes across as a chaotic, unbridled mess. The best parts of Ugly
are Braddock doing what he does best: singing his heart out and playing his instruments. While it is absolutely commendable that he did literally every single thing himself, the album would have really been better off with outside production help so Braddock could have learned the ropes better (and theoretically deliver a superior mix by himself should he ever whip up a second album). In conclusion, Ugly
is an otherwise excellent debut saddled by unfortunate production issues and questionable lyrical choices, and it's certainly one of the most genuine releases to come out of the genre lately. Give it a shot—you'll probably find something to enjoy (unless you're really not a fan of core music).