“Hell Or High Water”
August 24, 2010 - Self-released
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ first independent release in more than a half-decade is for the haters: Ronnie Winter laments love/hate relationships on “Casting The First Stone,” which races out of the gates with a double-time drumbeat and galloping guitars as Winter tries a relatively new trick for RJA: screamed verses. For a singer whose premier performances came when he reached for the moon (see “Face Down”), it’s a bit jarring and feels out of place. Winter later takes aim at his detractors on “Don’t Hate,” which opens with a caustic roar akin to Underoath’s recent offerings and displays some of the singer’s most pointed lyrics yet. “I don’t sing enough for you/I don’t scream enough for you/I’m not anything/That’s the way it goes when you’re on top,” he sings on the track, which ultimately sounds like the band had Breaking Benjamin’s discography playing ad nauseum in their practice space. The rest of Hell Or High Water is what listeners have come to expect from RJA—hard-tinged pop-punk with fairly memorable hooks—but something feels slightly off. The band self-produced the EP, and sonically, it’s hard to tell. Yet there’s no real spark, and the songs as a whole lack the magic that made “Face Down” and “False Pretense” so great. As RJA put the finishing touches on their upcoming full-length, due out early next year, here’s hoping they get a second opinion and tighten the songwriting reins.