Within the music industry, Falling In Reverse frontman Ronnie Radke has a reputation as a “character”, one of those impressively non-specific euphemistic epithets which can serve to mean anything from ‘loveable simpleton’ to ‘obnoxious c*nt’ on the linguistic sliding scale. A colourful, controversial chap with a chequered past (featuring a two-year stretch in prison) and a big mouth (last week saw a Twitter feud escalate into demands that the editor of a certain rock weekly be sacked), he’s the sort of media-savvy rock star who inspires journalists to trot out hysterical “Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him!” clichés in features. This, of course, is patently bollocks: Falling In Reverse may have scored two Top 20 albums in the US, but if you’re a) older than 16 b) have never attended a Warped Tour show or c) are not given to frequenting the sort of rock clubs where neck-tattooed bros/bro-dettes compete to down Jäger-bombs before slurping a mate’s arse-crack for an Instagram ‘Heart’, chances are that the Double R will have had no more impact upon your day-to-day life than, say, Noam Chomsky.
In truth, Just Like You may not significantly alter that situation, but it’s undeniably an album that’ll leave stains upon the memory of anyone who chooses to check it out. Falling In Reverse are a thoroughly modern rock band targeted at an over-stimulated generation, and one’s appetite for their frequently bewildering marriage of metalcore, pop, hip-hop and vaudeville theatrics will likely depend on just how irritating/involving/entertaining you find their frontman’s startling declaration “I am aware that I am an asshole” introducing the album’s title track. With all due respect to his colleagues, few bands are built more closely around one man’s vision, ego and attitude, and Radke’s louder-than-life personality is smeared over every second of FIR’s third album. At one end of the scale there’s the brash, sugary rush of Get Me Out, a 31-year-old man tapping into his inner teenager for a hilariously over-the-top tongue-in-cheek self-empowerment anthem (“I know one day I’ll be, the king of the music scene…”) which might just sound like the best song ever to a 12-year-old kid from the MidWest: at the other, there’s Brother, a starkly emotional piano ballad about the death of Radke’s brother Anthony which sucks the air out of the room with its obvious sincerity. Between these polarities, there’s much entertainment to be found, from the fine, widescreen Avenged Sevenfold-style chorus of God, If You Are Above to the startling, vaguely political Wait And See, which with its collision of hip-hop, electronica and shredding guitar could be Linkin Park if the band members had never been properly introduced and were banned from hearing one another’s contributions in the studio. Elsewhere there’s unintentionally amusing metalcore (Guillotine IV (The Final Chapter)), saccharine power balladry (My Hearts To Blame), R&B-tinged pop-metal (Sexy Drug… “Like OMG you make me come…come….complete”) and all manner of self-aware, jaw-dropping lyricism that’ll have you rewinding time and time again in order to double-check that you heard correctly.
God only knows what all this means. As the mighty Spinal Tap once sagely observed, there’s a fine line between stupid and clever, and Ronnie Radke is currently partying hard in a zero fucks-given world of his own creation. There’s a lyric in the jaunty, self-aggrandising ‘I’m bonkers, me’ Stay Away where the singer pleads “Please do not adore me”, a statement which must surely have been delivered with the broadest of grins. It’s difficult to begrudge the man his time in the spotlight, and his obvious lust-for-life is rather intoxicating, but jeez, enter his orbit at your own risk, for this is ADHD rock at its most staggeringly irony-free. You go fella, we’ll be on the sidelines watching with jaws agape.