The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus enjoyed a good deal of crossover success in 2007, when "Face Down" became a hit single with pop fans and modern rock audiences alike. Rarely had an emo band cracked the Top 40, much less with a song that featured screaming vocals, and the group's debut album sold over one million copies as a result. Released two years later, Lonely Road attempts to maintain that audience with a wildly eclectic track list, all the while remaining rooted in the familiar emo world of nasal vocals, anthemic choruses, and distorted guitars. Veteran producer Howard Benson gives the album a slick studio polish, stacking guitar riffs like bricks in an attempt to build something noteworthy, but Lonely Road ultimately collapses under the weight of its own spectacle.
The entire project is misguided, but vocalist Ronnie Winter is perhaps the worst offender. Having suffered from bronchitis during the band's previous tour (a disease that excused his inability to hit any of the high notes in concert), he embraces his healed throat by performing acrobatic flips around every melody, oversinging the songs within an inch of their lives. Tracks like "Represent" are excessive, filled with symphonic string schmaltz and fist-pumping guitars, but far worse is the doo wop/emo ballad "Believe," where Winter croons with all the earnestness of an American Idol contestant aping Steve Perry. Later, the band employs an honest-to-God gospel choir during the title track, a move that ushers some Southern rock clichés and Kid Rock-styled soul into the mix. The most ridiculous highlight, though, is "Godspeed," a flawed war ballad filled with rat-a-tat military percussion, a drill sergeant's voice-over, and an imagined story line that involves bayonets and tear-sealed letters. Like the ten previous tracks, "Godspeed" is too far-reaching for a band like the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, whose ability to perform these songs live is questionable at best. Don't You Fake It may have suffered from a lack of variety, but Lonely Road is plagued by different diseases: misguided ambition, outlandish excess, and a bad case of the ol' sophomore slump.