How many albums do you estimate you’ve heard in your lifetime? I own something like 1,000-1,200 physical albums. Plus a couple thousand more that I own digitally. Plus all the press copies people have sent me. Plus all the albums I’ve lost, sold, or thrown out over the years. Plus everything I’ve borrowed or heard playing in friends’ cars. I guess we’re talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000+ albums. I only mention this because Falling In Reverse’s Fashionably Late is the worst album I’ve ever heard.
There are so many awful things happening at once on Fashionably Late that it feels like a doctor telling you that you have AIDS, but while you’re trying to process this horrible news, he says, “Oh wait, you also have a brain tumor and we have to remove one of your balls and also a bird just shit on your car and I’m banging your wife.” If you could map this album out in graph form, you’d see concentric circles, each representing a unique degree of infinite atrocity, all overlapping and conjoining to flow inward, catching you in the eye of this cataclysmic level-5 shitstorm. The badness of Fashionably Late barrages you like waves. But not ocean waves which are just made up of salt water and seaweed and possibly some harmless trash. The worst ocean waves can do is make you drown and die. No, the Fashionably Late waves that crash upon you make suffering a waterlogged death seem like a weekend at a beauty spa.
The album starts off innocently enough. Atrociously bad, but innocent in its unoriginality. The first minute is straightforward crapcore—just metal riffs and laughably bad hardcore growling that you’ve probably heard a million times before. Around the second minute, it breaks into clean, thoroughly tone-deaf singing. Again, if you’ve kept up with garbage music trends over the last few years, this clashing melange of tough guy snarling and sissypants singing is nothing new.
The third minute is where things get interesting. The record literally screeches to a halt as the singer, frontman Ronnie Radke, whose long, jetblack, scenester hair and face tattoos make him look like a male Suicide Girl, stops the music dead and says, “All right, stop, stop, hold on.” That is when Radke busts out into something no one saw coming: A fast-paced rap verse which includes the lyric: “Gonna take that spot on top of the list quick / Call it statutory rape.” Maybe not a subject Radke should be casually grazing over given his arrest record which includes assaulting his girlfriend, injuring fans by throwing multiple microphone stands into the crowd, and his famous 2-year prison sentence for his violating probation after his involvement in an altercation that resulted in murder. But back to the worst thing he’s ever done, this album.
Fashionably Late takes a strange twist by the second track, ‘Bad Girls Club,’ a nearly 4-minute-long radio-friendly pop song. Well, maybe not “radio-friendly” since an f-bomb is dropped. But really, the closest musical likenesses I can compare it to are ‘Hey Mickey’ or Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl.’ The chorus features Radke singing the line, “Olly olly oxen free / All the bad girls come cheer with me / Your love’s a drug, you got me on the run / I’m just another victim of the bad girls club” while a gaggle of girls clap, laugh, and chant, “Hey!” in the background with this cutesy Japanese kawaii feel. It is the most sugary sweet, shameless grasp at a radio hit you’ve ever heard. Meanwhile, literally less than a minute ago, this guy was grunting about looking for justice and “seeking out bitches who decided to talk shit” and now he’s dropping the line “She follows me on Twitter / Asking if I miss her / Hashtag: #setmefree” like he’s Miley Fucking Cyrus. But as bizarre as ‘Bad Girls Club’ is, it is actually a welcome change of pace from the awful combination of white guy rap and gruntcore that Fashionably Late kicked off with. But it’s a short-lived reprieve because by the very next song, the entire album has melded into one disastrous mix of every musical element in Falling In Reverse’s arsenal and it continues like this for another 40 minutes.
The overall delivery of Fashionably Late is very odd and more than a little creepy. Mainly because the album is littered with references to teen topics like Facebook, texting, video games, and making out but in the same breath, raps about “white boy swagger” and Gucci sneakers, and growls menacing threats about stabbing people and god knows whatever else. At one point, Radke threatens to “gut you like a fucking avocado,” whatever that means. Fashionably Late sounds like an album written by a 14-year-old girl and delivered by a 29-year-old convicted felon.
It should also be mentioned that this album was released by Epitaph Records, which was founded in 1980 by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz and has released legendary punk albums like Rancid’s Let’s Go, NOFX’s S&M Airlines, and most recently, Propagandhi’s epic 2012 album, Failed States. But in their attempts at appealing to a younger audience, Epitaph has taken a few giant missteps in recent years, signing hardcore boybands like Bring Me The Horizon and Our Last Night. Their decision to release Fashionably Late, however, will be the biggest mistake of their 30+ years in business, and one they will end up regretting.
If its overwhelming musical failures were all I was basing this review on, I wouldn’t be calling Fashionably Late the worst album I’ve ever heard. In fact I might even say it’s bad enough to be a laughable good time, like watching a Nic Cage movie. The reason it’s The Worst Ever is that it breaks down the very necessary barriers between what is pop music and what is hardcore. And by doing so, it does the lowest thing possible: It puts a homophobic, misogynistic convicted felon on the cover of music magazines so that thousands of misguided teenage girls can fawn over him which, amazingly, they do. Don’t get me wrong, I am an incredibly un-P.C. person. But I guess I find a problem with the notion of handing over a horde of adoring teenage fans to a guy who spits on his audience members and calls them faggots? I’m weird like that.
This alternative music scene, call it what you will—punk, hardcore, whatever—does not need its own Chris Brown in Rappin’ Ronnie Radke. It’s supposed to be a scene where kids can enjoy music that, regardless of quality or talent-level, is free of the bullshit that comes along with pop music like incessant drama, the casual advocating of violence, and rampant narcissism. This scene needs to be defended from letting the toxic culture of mainstream music seep into it. Take a stand and destroy this album. If you own a record store, don’t carry it. If you have a podcast or radio show, don’t play it. If you are a booker for a venue, tell this band to find somewhere else. And if you are an assuredly pissed off Falling In Reverse fan reading this, know that you could swing a dead cat in a record store and hit an album more deserving of your time. Because Falling In Reverse aren’t Fashionably Late, they were never fucking invited.