It’s 2003 in Jacksonville, Florida and young Ronnie Winters and a group of his friends decide to form a band. They name the band after throwing random words at a wall and voting on different combinations. What they come up with is the absolutely ridiculous moniker of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Soon enough, the band becomes popular around Florida and this eventually catches the ear of Virgin Records, who came calling in 2005.
Ten years ago today on July 18, 2006, the band released their debut album Don’t You Fake It. At the time, it was running off of the strength of its incredibly catchy first single “Face Down”. Despite its catchiness, this single about an abusive relationship went awry works more as a rallying cry than it ever should as a band’s first single. Somehow, however, it carried itself all the way to #24 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Meanwhile the opener to the album “In Fate’s Hands” is a rabble rouser of a tune. With it’s screaming accompaniment, it fit in well with the landscape of 2006 pop-punk. With its thumping bass line, it proved to be a strong open for the album that leads from one song to another very well. “Waiting” can’t leave up to the tracks surrounding it. It’s simple lyrics pale to that of the track following it and musically it just does not have the dichotomy of the previous song. “False Pretense” tells it’s story of betrayal and did so effectively. So effective it was in fact that the quite terrible MMA film Never Back Down featured it on the soundtrack. It would also prove to the world these guys with a weird name were more than just one-hit wonders.
After the astronomical single “Face Down”, which is featured in the clean-up spot, we get “Misery Loves Its Company”, a forgettable track to say the least. “Cat and Mouse” which follows it, however, would set a pattern of ballads that they’d solidify just five tracks later. With it’s slowed guitar, quiet nuance and loving subject matter, it was a really solid initial ballad for these southern pop-punkers. As their fourth single “Damn Regret” sounds like a Fall Out Boy song of that era, except it’s missing Patrick Stump’s vocals. The song’s opening riff, which turns into the rhythm guitar part, and it sounds straight out of From Under the Cork Tree
“Atrophy” is a good ripper on the back side of the album and something that will do a great job of keeping your attention. That says a lot considering what follows it — “Seventeen Ain’t So Sweet” is a huge example of this album’s problem. There’s now flow to the whole thing. One track meanders into the next that has more to do with the order the songs are in than anything else. Luckily the production lets the whole thing sort of flow despite the record being flawed from a tone perspective.
Really all that can be said of “Justify” is that it exist and sounds like a lot of other songs from 2004-2007. It has a chorus that feels recycled from earlier tracks on this very album. Some of this I believe is because of singer Ronnie Winters cadence which rarely changes. Perhaps, however, its is the monotonous rhythm and its stale drum fills.
Listen to that gorgeous, acoustic beauty that is “Your Guardian Angel” this is perhaps the best song this bands ever written and an absolutely perfect closer. It winds us down to a whisper before picking up and dropping us right in the middle of an unwanted goodbye. As Winters begs for her to stay he reminds her of why this is a good idea and the lengths to which he’ll go to assure her return. What we get as the listener is a heart on sleeve confessional from a man desperate to keep the love alive. All those elements form to craft a closer that this record does not deserve but one that at the same time feels right at home.