One of rock and roll’s last surviving self-confessed bad boys is back, and Ronnie Radke has continued to ply his magic song writing formula to churn out more effortlessly slick pop rock hits in Falling in Reverse’s latest release, Coming Home.
Not many bands can lay claim to already being an established name in rock, before they had even released a track, and whilst their lead singer was still in prison. Since then, the band has continued to maintain interest through the prism of a love hate relationship with its fans and listeners. Mic stands have been thrown, singles have comprised of rap verses and K-pop jingles, and feuds with rival musicians have been waged. It would be fair to say that the band has made headlines because of its diverse back catalogue and unpredictability, not to mention the revolving door of band members.
However, alongside the previous release Just Like You, Coming Home shows the band finally finding their comfort zone and musical place, whilst still leaving room for creative spearhead Ronnie Radke to work his magic and steer the band’s direction.
Coming Home is a self-reflective and socially-scathing record, consisting of lots of woahs, la-la-las and fucks. There has been a purposeful effort by the band to complete a coherent album that resembles more of a body of work than a scattering of ideas; a criticism of previous albums. This conscious effort to create a more mature record is seen in the two poppier tracks on the album, Right Now and Paparazzi, being pushed into the deluxe edition.
This is a shame, as Right Now is by far the catchiest track on the album and is this record’s answer to Fashionably Late’s Bad Girls Club. Lyrically immature and completely mimicking of Bad Girls Club, this song should fail. However, Radke’s confidence in his pop sensibilities shrugs off any bad feeling, as he sings ‘you’re as dumb as this song’. Goofy and satirical lyrics coupled with squealing guitars and a bouncing chorus make for a really fun listen, and show that the band’s power pop angle is hard for them to let go of, because no band right now does it better. Paparazzi is an equally clean effort, a skater-anthem that asks ‘what the fuck’s a selfie stick’? This track offers an insight into Radke being ‘desperate for a radio-hit’, and has some syrupy-sweet hoppy guitar riffs that make this a basic pop-punk track that ticks all the boxes.
Concentrating on the core of the album, Coming Home seemingly seeks to use a space-rock theme as the glue that holds the album together, as a continuing theme and concept. However, this is done with lacklustre, in an underplayed fashion. Single piano and synth notes are about as committed it gets, and it falls flat. It does really feel like the band throws the theme to the waste-side after the album’s title track and the quite ridiculous cameo from Siri. Digital soundscapes appear here and there and are actually quite effective, but are far too subtle to drive the album’s apparent and marketed theme. This is telling about Radke’s foray into various musical styles and his fight against being pinned to a genre, which is actually quite admirable in an industry where artists are now wide open to immediate online criticism.
However, the album’s title track does force a theme that does not continue, being purposely cinematic but failing to ever lift you to the next level of the song. Interesting guitar tones develop towards the song’s end, but by then you are merely glad that it is over. Loser however adopts a space rock feel that feels less contrived. A classic Radke chorus echoes a message of self-doubt that anyone can relate to in a society that is constantly striving for what’s next and something more; ‘if they call this winning why do I feel like a loser?’. The drums are pounding and the digital element of this track is of the right measure. The construction of the vocals is also worth a mention, as Ronnie really is here, there and everywhere on this track, changing the tempo whenever he likes. A solid guitar solo brings this one together, however the incessant ‘yeahs’ are a completely undermining and a pointless addition.
These tracks are about as far the ‘space-rock’ goes on this album (unless you include Radke’s eccentric reference to being an alien on Right Now…) but the electronic components are an ever present. This approach really paid dividends on tracks such as Chemical Prisoner on Just Like You, and Broken continues in the same vain. The vocal performance is incredibly varied and you really do hear every ounce of Radke as he belts out simple but powerfully emotive lyrics. Each note is left to fizzle out to great effect, the only shame is that the song itself does so too and disappears without much closure. However, this track provides the anthemic chorus that Coming Home was missing, with the gang vocals providing a great fit.
With the exception of the bonus tracks and Coming Home, the band does well in achieving a well-balanced, consistent and stylised record. Fuck You and All Your Friends mixes thrashy guitars with dirty vocals. There is no doubt that this song was imagined naturally, fashioned together out of acoustic wanderings. However, the chorus is polished and sonically satisfying; the guitars are pressurised into a tunnel of sound that creates a fast paced rock and roll sing along. This track goes to show that a lack of instrumentation can be made up for with attitude.
Where Fuck You and All Your Friends emulates MCR, I Hate Everyone would not be out of place on a Busted album. The vocals are warm, and Radke shows maturity in holding back his voice on this track. The transition from open strumming to hard rock works well and the feisty monologue is poignant and reminiscent of Courney Love on Fall Out Boy’s Rat A Tat. The message of the song appears simple, but actually tells the tale of how loving someone so much can sometimes go far in only pointing out the flaws of others who fall short in your eyes.
Where the record eventually succeeds in creating stylistic consistency, it fails in creating a consistency in quality throughout the entire album. In I’m Bad At Life, the guitar work is plain and the track fails to reach any heights worth mentioning. There is an ample opportunity for an extended solo, however like on many songs on this record, the guitars are not given enough license to roam, with Christian Thompson not really having too many opportunities to bring his solo skills or technical ability to the fore with the exception of his demonic solo on Straight to Hell. Since his Escape the Fate days, guitar solos on Radke’s tracks feel more like guest appearances than well thought out inclusions. The instrumentation is too often bland as the band tries to fit their parts around a pre-determined Radke melody. Ryan Seaman puts in a decent performance with driving drumbeats that never seem out of place, however his future now remains up in the air, after he became to target of Radke’s latest outburst, branding him a ‘fucking coward’ over Twitter.
Although the guitar work does succeed in creating a welcome a sense of Escape the Fate nostalgia, and the album as a whole does actually strive for a stadium feel, it is the sheer quality of Radke’s melodic ability that draws the record together. This is an album full to the brim with huge, huge choruses. Radke clearly has a gift for the epic, memorable pop-rock chorus. The vocals on show are also astonishing, with Radke really bringing each song to life with his approach; theatrical, varied, goofy, engaging, passionate and LOUD.
The band’s best work on this album, Hanging On, kicks things up a notch. Understated verses infused with a driving drumbreat, a kicking bridge and a massive chorus. This is Falling in Reverse finding the perfect formula. The guitars hang in mid air just like Radke’s lyrics on the chorus which makes for powerful songwriting. The layered vocals are well produced throughout, and the melody of the chorus is Radke at his absolute best with the lyrical highlight being ‘all we are is setting ourselves up to fall apart’. The lyrical peaks of this record are not Radke’s words, but the conviction he says them with.
The massive hooks continue onto Superhero; again, the understated , pacey verse and the huge chorus complement one another. This one has soundtrack written all over it and the electronic transitions add a further dimension to what could be taken as a very straight-forward track. Radke clearly sees himself as a superhero, with admittedly a super ego. However, he knows that fans hang on his every word, and this track tells of his efforts to improve himself so that he can do the same for others.
Where Hanging On and Superhero are peaks, Straight to Hell, like I’m Bad At Life, is a trough. Ronnie shares the vocal spotlight on this one, as he does on Paparazzi, presumably with his co-writer Tyler Smyth. These efforts both lack the magic melody, but perhaps show a change in direction for the creative process of Falling in Reverse, if members of the band continue to be alienated.
Meanwhile, I Don’t Mind is a self-depreciating, tongue in cheek ballad with a sinister atmosphere created by heart on sleeve lyrics and a dark ambience. In terms of musicmanship, this is the best song on the album. Conversely, The Departure is a strange song and features the only leading bass line Falling in Reverse has probably ever produced. The intro graduates from Nirvana into Placebo in the chorus. Radke manipulates his voices on this track, perhaps an ode to his Eminem influence. These mismatched influences lead to a confusing experience and a poor close to the album.
When all is said and done, Coming Home is an overall success. Falling in Reverse has found its magic formula: understated, soft verses, kicking, pacey bridges and soaring, emotive hooks. Radke’s voice is monumental on this record, and the front man has the good problem of being able to produce too many good melodies.
If he can learn to be even pickier for the next album, honing his lyrics to be as personal as the band’s debut album, whilst allow a heavier involvement from the rest of the band, then space might actually be the limit for one of last bands of this genre left standing.
Listen to: Hanging on, Superhero, Right Now, I Don’t Mind