The Hype: “Raw, relentless and real as F@*K! Ronnie Radke takes on the world in a take no prisoners approach to songwriting...fiercely honest...ferocious sonic breakdowns...shredding...massive...in-your-face...’all I write is tragedy, I never write about being happy’...taking elements from pop, arena-metal...”
Most Revealing Lyric: "They call me King of the music scene.”
Proper Music You Should Be Listening to Instead: Sick Pleasure: Dolls Under Control (Subterranean Records, 1982)
When the subject of a review contains this many moments of wrongness, it’s hard to know where to begin. I suppose we could start with the very first sentence of a press release containing the phrase “real as F@*K!” How are we supposed to talk about something that’s real as fuck when we can’t even say the word “fuck”? Are there children receiving press releases from Epitaph? Even if they are, shouldn't 14-year-olds be able to get things that say the word “fuck” in them? I was getting Dead Kennedys records when I was that age, and we didn't want no PMRC telling us we couldn't have ‘em. Or am I so old that “F@*K!” is now MORE hardcore than “FUCK”? Is that even possible? How fucking old am I?It’s fairly important to note that the singer of this band was in some hugely famous band that I never heard of called Escape the Fate, and then spent a couple years in jail, which would explain the “take no prisoners” approach mentioned in The Hype. I wouldn't want those guys hanging around me anymore either.
Anyway, this is the self-esteem-boosting music he wrote for himself while in the clink. OK, I can understand how a guy like that might have anger management issues. Go ahead man, get it all out of your system, like John Lennon did on Plastic Ono Band.
But in taking that approach, what comes out of his deepest, darkest soul reveals him to be highly slappable. “Well I can lure any woman that I want to in my bed,” sings Radke, like we’re supposed to high-five him for being such a stud; but you know the guys that talk about it the most are getting it the least. And not even Frank Sinatra could have gotten away with a line like, “It comes so naturally, so smooth and casually, that’s why they call me King of The Music Scene.” When you’re king, you don’t sing about being king.
So, with his great love for himself out of the way, what does he hate? I guess he must have something against the guys from his old band, since the very first song contains the lyrics “I've learned that the Fate is something I can Escape.” Later he chants “One day they will see / It was always me.” To go back to John Lennon’s classic moment of catharsis and brutal honesty, he didn't need to write the line “Don’t believe in the Beatles / Because I was the only one in that band with any talent.” But then, John Lennon was a grown man when he was Radke’s age.
Radke also seems to have a chip on his shoulder against the arena metal cited as a prime influence, with lyrics like, “Hi, My name is Ronnie / I’m an addict / (Hi, Ronnie!) / Daddy should've never raised me on Black Sabbath!” I’ll have you know that most of my friends were also raised on Black Sabbath, and we turned out fine. But then again, our generation was made of hardier stuff. Anyway, whatever your personal problems are, don’t bring the good names of Geezer, Tony, Ozzy and Bill into this. They hold the greatness you aspire to, and you will never be King of The Music Scene in any room they’re sitting in, just so you know.
And maybe it’s just the fact that I got this in the mail the same week as Amy Winehouse’s death, but the hysterical pro-dope lyrics from a would-be superstar, which I’m led to believe are "Real as FUCK" or F*$K or whatever the kids call it today, are just not doing it for me. Maybe grim analysis of the lyrics reveal a brutal honesty, as it comes out that actions have CONSEQUENCES. So there really is an anti-drug message there, just like Ice Cube turns “Gangsta Gangsta” into a cautionary tale by tossing in the line “Now I’m dressed in the county blues” after five minutes of cheerleading. Right. Or perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from the spiritual emptiness felt by the protagonist of that song who gets to fuck every girl in town, but still isn't happy, like any kid in need of emotionally cathartic music can relate to that.
Writing a bad-ass boast in the name of “brutal honesty” is just showbiz as usual these days, but trying to make things more real by giving us these Afterschool Special morality plays is half-assing it. Back in my day, odes to anti-social and self-destructive behavior went all the way. If you must write songs about getting ripped out of your skull, just go for it. Write a real let’s-get-pissed drinking song about your substance of choice, like “Sweet Leaf”. If you want to write a song about the dangers of abuse, write a good dramatic horror story like “Hand of Doom”. Or you could do one that’s not obviously pro or anti like “Snow Blind”, if you’re clever enough to pull it off.
That it’s over-produced and digitized to shite is probably a given for this kind of music. It sounds big and expensive and radio-frendly, like it’ll jump out of computer speakers. Minor considerations like dynamic range and breathing space have no place in the iPod generation. But what’s the difference; who would ever listen to such trash on a hi-fi system? Pete Townshend said the Who made their singles tinny to sound tinny; now the trend is make it like shit so it’ll sound like shit. Bash the little fuckheads right in the earhole; they don’t know there’s music on unless they feel pain. If the pain subsides for even a second, the “intensity” is lost.
As for the music, it’s every kind of “aggressive” sound you've heard for the last 30 years thrown into a blender and selected seemingly at random, so you have Descendents choruses with Slayer breakdown parts and maybe a ska-inflected hip-hop break here and there. They hop, capably enough, from style to style, without showing a particular gift for any one of them. It sounds like short- attention span theater to me, and not in a good way.
Bands used to have identities, if I recall correctly. They made choices about what they were like, and were not like. Within select groups, no such discernment exists today. There’s no need. These guys might as well put every genre of music in a numeric list and walk out on stage and just say “17!”, which is on the list as “Gnarly Slam Part”, and everybody in the audience can look at their list and start running around in a circle, and then a guy on stage will yell out “23!”, at which point everyone stops to look at the list and starts pumping their fists for the Slow Mosh Part. And at the end of it all, people can talk about how much better tonight’s show was than last night’s, where they didn't yell out 38 all night even though that’s the hardcore fan favorite.
Children of today, if you do nothing to protest this foul state of the art, this is your future.